I’m a woman of a certain age – young enough to be active and fairly energetic, but old enough to watch in frustration as various parts of my body sag, age spots appear, and spider veins create a convoluted road map on my legs. I’ve accepted that my body may never be what it once was…long, long, LONG ago, but I’d like to keep my mind intact, if I can. In order to keep the brain cells sharp, I read, take classes to learn new skills, and I enjoy researching sometimes odd facts. For example, for the past fifteen minutes, I’ve been ignoring my work and searching the internet to see if whales could swallow a human whole. Just in case you’re interested, according to Smithsonian.com, it’s possible, but if it happened, it would probably be an accident and the whale might spit you out. I also play a lot of online games, like Candy Crush, because my father’s neurologist told him that playing any type of game helps the brain to function better. So if you ever needed an excuse to play Candy Crush – now you have one. You’re welcome.
So, you can imagine my concern several years ago when I started to have periodic brain glitches. I would be speaking to someone and suddenly, I would be unable to remember the word to use to describe an item I was talking about. It would go something like this: “So there I was, driving down the highway, and suddenly the car started to shake. A minute later, the…um – you know, that thing? The…the thing that is black and round? You know, it’s made of rubber and it’s between the car and the road? It goes ‘round and ‘round? What is that called?” About this time, the person who had moments earlier thought I was a normal, sane person begins to look at me in alarm, backing away slightly. They might open their mouth to venture a guess, but usually my brain roars to life just then, and I practically scream the word in relief: “TIRE! It’s the TIRE!”
On a visit to my doctor, I mentioned the issue – sure she would immediately refer me to a neurologist or order a battery of tests.
Instead, she told me that forgetting a word is a common thing that happens to almost everyone from time to time. It even has a name: lethologica – the inability to recall words, phrases, or names. My doc said if I was having more episodes of lethologica, it could be due to stress, being anxious in a social situation, or lack of sleep. She also mentioned that, as I speak at nearly the speed of sound, my brain might just have the occasional moment where it couldn’t keep up. She told me not to worry about it, as it was temporary and not indicative of a medical concern unless there were other symptoms.
So, I didn’t worry about it – and, sure enough, eventually my brain glitches became fewer and fewer. You’ll be pleased to know I can remember and utter nearly every word I want to these days – and some words that I probably shouldn’t. I thought my days of being concerned about the condition of my aging brain were over – at least for the time being.
A couple of days ago, I turned on the hot water in my tub. I do this nearly every night when I want to wash the makeup off my face – because if I turn on the water in the sink, it takes forever to get hot. Seriously, I could be waiting for hot water until the next morning – and by that time, I wouldn’t need to wash off my makeup – I could just get dressed and go to work, albeit with smudged mascara. Once the hot water arrives through the tub faucet, I usually wet a washcloth there, and then turn it off and turn on the sink to finish the job. However, this night, no hot water came from the tub faucet. There was plenty of water coming from the faucet – but it just never got hot! I finally resorted to washing my face with chilly water and then went to investigate – sure that one of my kids had taken a bedtime shower and used up all of the hot water in the house. As I rounded the corner in the hall, I ran into my son who was just coming out of his room.
“Did you take a shower?” (I don’t know why I even asked – his scruffy hair was proof he hadn’t). “Did your sister?” He followed me to the bathroom, where I could see the shower walls were dry. I told him about the problem with the hot water and he responded, “We have hot water!” He proceeded to run the water in the sink – which, indeed, was piping hot a few moments later (WTF? How come my kids get hot water in a nano-second and I have to wait forever??)
Now I was confused – obviously there was hot water in the house, so why wasn’t I getting any of it in my bathroom? I returned and ran the water in the tub again – still cold. I tried the cold water handle – even colder. I gave up in disgust and went to bed.
In the morning, I turned on the shower – preparing myself to shower with cold water if I had to. But no, the shower was soon steaming, as was the water in the sink when I turned it on. I again tried the hot water in the tub, sure now that the issue was resolved. But no – plenty of water came gushing through the faucet, but it never got hot. How could this be? If water was getting to the faucet, it should be hot. There was no reasonable explanation for why no hot water was coming out when the house obviously had plenty of hot water. I logged onto my computer and emailed my ex, explaining the situation and asking him to stop by the house to check it out. He responded that he would come over later that morning, but he also was confused by the situation and how it could even occur.
I went to work, tallying the cost of a plumber in my head and stressing out about the fact that we would have to take tile off the bath surround to get to the plumbing and then re-tile the area when we were done (and when I say “we” I really mean my ex – because I wasn’t going to be doing any of that). A few hours later I got another email from Doc:
“Which faucet handle did you turn on? The left or the right?”
I responded, “The left – same as every night.”
A moment later another email hit my inbox: “The hot water handle is on the RIGHT. You have hot water.”
I felt like a gigantic idiot! I mean, I had tried the right handle the night before – but only for an instant. When I felt that the water was even colder, I immediately turned it off. I had been sure the hot water handle was on the left! But why would I think that? I turned the hot water on almost every night – how could I suddenly think the hot water handle was on the other side? My ex probably thought I made the whole thing up, just to mess with him. Or worse, what if he thought I made it up because I was pining for him and was using any excuse to get him to come to the house?
And so it begins — my brain has clearly decided to give up the fight and embrace old age.
PS — I wrote this at work today and then I came home and figured I’d make dinner before I posted it on the blog. Dinner tonight was chicken pasta, which called for some chicken broth. I didn’t have any, so I mixed up some bullion in a coffee cup and set it aside while I handled a few other steps of the recipe. When it was time for the bullion, I grabbed the cup and measured out a half cup — thinking to myself, “Wow, it really darkened up while it was sitting.” As I poured it into the pan, I caught a delicious whiff of my son’s coffee…and about then I realized I had picked up my son’s coffee cup, measured out a half cup of my son’s coffee and poured the coffee into the pasta!
The Candy Crush may not be working.
Do you ever have episodes of lethologica? Have you ever been convinced something is one way, when it’s certainly not (and when you finally figure it out, you can’t figure out why you would have ever thought that to begin with?) Do you ever wonder weird shit that really doesn’t matter – like if whales can swallow humans?