One Christmas season many, many years ago, my mom and I spent a morning sorting the Christmas gifts we bought, making sure we had all the gifts properly labeled and checking who else we missed buying a gift for.
We came across this big box, beautifully wrapped, yet unmarked. No name on the card, no secret marks, whatever. My mom wondered out loud whose it was supposed to be. I said I didn’t know… because truly, I didn’t recognize the box when I first saw it.
And so my mom fidgeted. She held on to the box, turned it around, surveyed it up and down, weighed how heavy it was, shook it over and over, hoping the sound that it makes will make her remember what was inside.
After a few minutes, I realized that it was supposed to be our Christmas gift for her. My sister was the one who bought and had it wrapped, that’s why I didn’t recognize the box right away. Casually I told my mom to just leave the gift alone. But before I could stop her, she tore off the gift wrapper and ripped the box open.
After taking a peek at what’s inside, she got more confused. In a daze, she muttered, “I don’t remember buying this…”
“Why don’t you just put it back?” I said, trying to salvage whatever’s left of the surprise.
In a tone full of dread and with sheer panic in her eyes, my mom said, “My memory is failing me!!!”
At that point, I knew I had to confess. I told her that she wouldn’t remember nor recognize the gift because she did not buy it. I told her that the gift was supposed to be for her – but now she ruined the surprise.
I also told her that no, her memory was not failing her. Not yet, at least.
She was probably, at that time, the same age as me now.
That line — My memory is failing me — became a running joke between us, though.
I have always prided myself with having a good memory.
I’m the type who can tell a story of something that happened ages ago and I can remember and relay the details like they just happened yesterday. Try doing something bad to me and most likely I will remember it for life (holding a grudge is another thing, though).
Lately, however, I seem to forget things quite easily. Small things, like passwords… or people’s names… or where I put things.
Like this afternoon, I realized I was losing an ID card. I knew I used it sometime in the not so distant past, but I just couldn’t recall when, where and why. I knew my husband had something to do with it… I insisted that I entrusted the ID to him. But I couldn’t remember why so I started doubting my memory.
Whenever this happens, me not remembering something, I can’t help but panic.
I’ll first try to rack my brains to remember the detail that I forgot… When racking my brains doesn’t work, I’ll freak out internally – all the more reason for my brains not to cooperate. And then I will start feeling bad, and resignedly sigh, “My memory is failing me.”
But I am much too young to accept that. 😦
Just recently, I watched CNN’s Fareed Zakaria talk to neuroscientist Lisa Genova about Alzheimer’s disease — a progressive disease that destroys memory and other mental functions*– and how to prevent it. It was a very informative segment.
According to Ms. Genova, one can have the disease for some time without it manifesting right away. She said we can actually help prevent the advancement of the disease. Having enough good sleep, exercising, having a heart healthy diet, are among the things that one can practice to stave off the disease. Basically, I believe she meant taking care of one’s body by having a good lifestyle.
One more thing she mentioned was learning new things. It is more than just restoring knowledge that’s already there. She pointed out that learning new things make you build and connect new neural connections, or synapses. This, I deduced will help keep your brains from degenerating.
The human brain is a beautiful, complicated organ. Like the muscles in your body, the brain can be trained to improve its function. And for it to stay healthy, it requires great care, exercise and yes, stimulation.
One is never too old to learn something new. In a way, the more we use our brains, the more we keep it from getting old fast. Interesting, huh?
After watching that segment, I made a resolve to care for my brains and keep it as healthy as possible. I promised to be more mindful of things, make an effort to remember names and details. I will read more and learn new words. I will also write more… and use the new words that I learned.
I will learn new things.
Besides, a beautiful mind complements a beautiful face, right? ❤
I found the ID I was looking for. I racked my brains, retraced my steps, and proved my memory did not fail me. It was with the file that I gave to my husband. He couldn’t remember having it at all! So I blame him. 😉
Credits and sources:
*Alzheimer’s disease definition from Mayo Clinic.
Fareed Zakaria is a journalist and author. He is the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. You may watch his segment on Alzheimer’s via CNN video.
The picture is mine 🙂