Lum: The resistance of memories
October 23, 2013
The other day, my friend Hilary and I were watching a hostage episode of "The West Wing" (we are two-thirds through the 156 episodes) and were trying to think of the one that happened in the United States some years ago.
It turned out she was trying to think of Ruby Ridge and got it just as I shouted, "David!" "I want to say David Kardashian; I know that's not right, but it's something David." You have to give these things a little time to settle in your leaky mind and try to think of something else and then the answer will pop up out of nowhere.
The siege of the compound of the Branch DAVIDians — led by DAVID Koresh — was the massacre I was trying to remember. I got the David part.
It took me forever to remember that my oxygen machine was called a concentrator until I told myself that if I would just concentrate hard enough, I wouldn't forget that the machine was a concentrator.
These moments of aphasia can make normal conversation difficult. By the time you think of the word you were looking for you've forgotten the subject under discussion.
I have a friend named Dwight whom I always want to call Kevin or Keith and end up saying "K-K-K DWIGHT," making for awkward pauses. My friends and relatives have to be part mind-reader, and when I get together with other old people, we could be — between not hearing and forgetting — a hit on "Candid Camera."
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Awhile ago, I lost my Visa card and was determined to remember the number of my new one. Even in my prime I was lousy at numbers. Whenever possible, I'd turn phone numbers into words so I could keep them in my head. (Explore Booksellers, for instance, is 925-KEEN, a keen bookstore.)
There are no mnemonic devices for remembering a 16-digit credit card, but I practiced over and over while on the anti-gravity treadmill at physical therapy and finally got it — at least for the time being. The trick, it seems, is to order things regularly on the Internet so the number will be fresh in my mind. Smile face. Frown face.
A couple of friends are in the process of trying to entice me into playing bridge on the computer with them. Bridge is a game that can fry your brain like a pork rind, trying to remember what everybody bid and what cards have been played and what card your partner led. Bridge on the computer will require a whole new skill set in addition to honing my intermediate ability to play the cards.
With much trepidation, I'm going to give it a try. At least we'll have our own "table" and won't be playing with strangers or robots (you can actually opt to play with a robot!). I have signed up (free) at http://www.bridgebase.com and can watch games being played lickety split by experts and world-class players, complete with sound effects and cards flying before you can figure out who bid what. Some of the players seem to sit at their computers all day.
They say it will exercise and improve my brain functions rather than proving once and for all that there's nothing left in my skull except dog hair and lint.
Su Lum is a longtime local who forgets whether she's written about this before. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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