I can remember a conversation I had with my father when I was a freshman in college. My Dad would have been in his 40s. I was sharing with him my frustration over someone forgetting something that I thought was very important and could find no excuse for such a lapse in memory.
My father gently said, “Denise, I know you won’t be able to understand this now, but you will just have to believe me. There will come a time in your life when you will forget things no matter how you try. I don’t know if it has anything to do with age, or that you have so much going on in your life, or your brain just reaches a point where it says, ‘I can’t hold any more.’ All I know is that it happens.”
It’s strange that I can remember this 28-year-old conversation almost verbatim, yet when I leave the office tonight, I won’t remember on which side of the building I parked my car. Not that it matters, since I’ll have plenty of time to look for it while I’m trying to remember if I put my car keys in my pocket, purse or briefcase.
Dad, you were so right.
Actually, it’s not really a case of forgetting. It’s a problem of not remembering things at exactly the time you want to remember them. You recall the name of the acquaintance you ran into this morning, just not while you’re talking to him – but two hours later. It’s all still there; it just doesn’t cue up the way it used to.
For example, for the past year, I find I often call my teenage son by the dog’s name and the dog by my son’s name. The dog doesn’t seem to mind, but it infuriates my son. He indignantly asks how I could possibly confuse him with our dog. I tell him he’s right. I have no excuse. It’s impossible to confuse the two of them. The dog doesn’t blast the stereo, eats whatever I serve him without complaint, responds to commands and when he walks out of a room, doesn’t leave it looking like a bombsite. I should have absolutely no problem telling them apart – and I don’t. I just sometimes have a problem remembering their correct names.
Why am I sharing this with you? I forget. Oh yeah – because according to BodyShop Business market research, the average collision repair shop owner is 47 years old. That means most of you are in the prime of your “Now, what is it that I was going to do?” years.
There’s not a lot any of us can do about our diminished recall. It’s a fact of life. We need to take it in stride and not be too hard on ourselves when we experience a lapse. What we’ve gained in experience over these last decades more than makes up for an occasional act of forgetfulness.
However, I have found there are a few tricks that can help. Learn to speak more slowly and pause occasionally for dramatic effect. This gives you a few extra seconds to remember what it was you were talking about. Also, watch the company you keep. Try to hang around with people 40 and over. They’re much more sympathetic when you suddenly stop and stare blankly because you can’t remember what you were saying or where you were going.
And most importantly, if you get a dog, have the foresight to name him after your kid. It’ll save you a lot of grief.