by Dennis Greene
When I call on my fragile mind to multi-task, things often end badly.
For instance, in 1967, I attended Stu Lasky’s wedding in Scarsdale with my college roommate Kenny Fox and his parents, my “second family.”
As we sat in the synagogue waiting for the ceremony to begin, I noticed a beautiful Asian girl sitting alone a few rows away. It looked like she knew no one. This was during that wonderful interim between the disappearance of my acne and the appearance of my receding hairline, so I was flushed with a modicum of confidence. I forced myself into action and found myself inviting her to come and join us. She told me her name was Noella Luke, happily accepted the invitation, and smiled. I was enchanted. As we walked back to join the Foxes, my brain was churning. I was listening to Noella tell me how she knew the bride; I was imagining what our children might look like; and I was complimenting myself on this very mature, thoughtful, and cool move. Before I had time to prepare myself, we arrived at our seats, and I began to introduce Noella to the Foxes, but after “Noella, I’d like you to meet Mr. and Mrs….” I drew a blank. I could not recall their name. I became speechless and froze, the temperature went up to about 110 degrees, sweat began to pour down my brow, and there was about thirty seconds of awkward silence before the Foxes introduced themselves. I knew that my overloaded brain’s failure to come up with the name “Fox” had managed to turn a major victory into a humiliating defeat. I have to learn to focus more on what I am doing.
This past weekend, I bought a $20 sheet of coupons from a kid raising money for the Wellesley High baseball team, and I decided to use one of the coupons as an excuse to get a forbidden pizza. I drove to Wellesley Center and found a parking place not far from the Upper Crust. As I was unbuckling my seatbelt, I remembered that I had a parking meter app on my phone. I activated my iPhone, got out of the car, and paid the fee. Then, I went into a nearby bookstore. After a half hour chat with the owner, I strolled over to the Upper Crust, ordered a small pepperoni and mushroom pizza, and ate it while reading Ringworld. Forty-five minutes later, I emerged from the restaurant and headed back to my car, patting my pockets quickly, looking for my keys. I didn’t find them. I repeated the search, more slowly. I didn’t have them. I considered whether I might have left them in the Upper Crust or in the bookstore. Then it occurred to me that they might be in the ignition. After a brief moment of panic, I spotted my car, so I knew it hadn’t been stolen, and I was soon close enough to see that the keys actually were in the ignition. No harm done, luckily. And with a sigh of relief, I slid into the driver’s seat, buckled my seatbelt, and reached to turn on the ignition. It was already on! The car engine had been running for the past hour and a half. Another brain malfunction. These have recently been occurring more frequently.
How does one tell the difference between normal “aging brain” malfunctions and the onset of more serious dementia? Is my undependable old brain even capable of distinguishing the difference? I worry about myself, and all of us.
It is clear that the magnitude of the distraction required to trigger a brain lapse has been reduced significantly for me over the years. In 1967 the smile and attention of the young woman of my fantasies, while I was taking an unprecedented social risk, reduced me to a catatonic state. That is easily understandable. It was an important moment for me.
But, last week, my brain short-circuited because I got excited about using a new parking fee app. That’s just sad.
Dennis spent five years as an engineer and then forty as a lawyer–and sixty as a pop culture geek and junkie. He’s been writing blog articles for BOLLI Matters in quite a variety of genres: science fiction, movie and video picks, creative nonfiction, and memoir. This month, he provides us with this “Senior Moment” as feature writer Eleanor Jaffe addresses a concern “On Her Mind.”