Memento Mori by
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(237 Stories)

Prompted By Senior Moments

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When my mother would check a book out of the library, start to read it, and proclaim, “I already read this,” I would shake my head in disbelief. How could she not remember what she had read? She used to call the NuStep exercise machine in her gym the YouTube. Cute, right? Now I am my mother. I start a book on my reader and, after a few pages, get that sinking sensation that I have been down this road before. I search for my iPhone, only to find it on top of the clothes dryer. I find my misplaced sunglasses on top of my head. I can’t remember a name, but sometime later that day, it floats into my head. The other day, I wanted to say “overture” but “epilogue” came out of my mouth.

It’s easy to laugh about senior moments when your parents lived long lives with their faculties intact. Not so easy for my friend whose mother and uncles all developed Alzheimer’s.

I guess senior moments are to be expected for someone who is starting to see 75 in her rearview mirror. And mostly they are okay. I know the name will come to me or I will find my phone or glasses at some point. But I have a friend who knows that will not be the case and that her senior moments have become a way of life. There is no humor in her inability to remember how to work her phone or zoom on her iPad or work her television remote or drive her car. For her, this is the beginning of an avalanche of senior moments that will overtake her life in the future.

We are in the same book club, which she has not attended since the pandemic due to the zoom factor and her inability to retain what she reads. Another friend and I spent an afternoon with her setting up Audible on her iPad so she could listen to the monthly book. Thus far, this seems to be working. The book we put on Audible for her, the book our leader thinks we will enjoy as women in their 70s and early 80s, is Memento Mori by Muriel Spark. She recommends it because, “… with us so mightily persevering as we get delightfully older” we should enjoy this 1957 tale of aging.

I have only read 40% of the book, and so far, I’m not laughing. As one of the characters who is living in an old age home where the residents are called grannies says, “It is difficult for people of advanced years to start remembering they must die.” The book’s title Memento Mori means “remember that you must die.” Thus far, some characters are suffering from dementia while others have a variety of senior moments. I guess some of them could be called humorous.

I am in a writing group whose members range from mid-fifties to late eighties. When I was young, I longed to be like a high school classmate who was extroverted, a cheerleader, and endowed with tons of friends. Now, I hope to be like Nora from my writing group, who wrote about her 88th birthday. Dreading her birthday, she took her mind off it by reading Hamnet, which led her to reread many Shakespearean sonnets and plays. Now, she was feeling grateful and eager to share her thoughts with family and friends. She dressed up for a birthday dinner with a dear friend, “happy to be together, withered, shriveled … Our various digestive issues interfered with the consumption of this meal but we didn’t care. The sharing and telling of our stories was sustenance enough … the next day, the swell of happiness washed me onto the road to 89.”

I know I will continue to have my senior moments. Last night, my husband and I took a while to come up with Colin Kaepernick’s name in a discussion about athletes protesting. While writing this, I was also mixing dough for bread and forgot an ingredient. I’ve always been great at multi-tasking, but not so much anymore. Most of the time, things like finding my keys on my lap while tearing my purse apart are funny. My office is adorned with post-its. It’s easy to laugh about senior moments when your parents lived long lives with their faculties intact. Not so easy for my friend whose mother and uncles all developed Alzheimer’s. She calls her current state of mind a final gift from her mother.

All of this makes me grateful that my senior moments are still laughable. Whatever I forget still comes to me if I don’t try too hard to remember. I’ll probably finish Memento Mori because I always do my homework, but I wonder how many of my fellow book club members are laughing.

I invite you to read my book Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, join my Facebook community, and visit my website.

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: well written

Comments

  1. Khati Hendry says:

    Thanks for the tip—I think I will skip Memento Mori! I also hope to be more like your friend Nora—the story reminded me of one I heard about Oliver Wendell Holmes who was found reading Plato in his late nineties—“What are you doing? I’m improving my mind!” Also, “Oh, to be seventy again!” You description of friends suffering truly from dementia is tender and sad—as many do, I also have Alzheimer’s in family members and every lapse makes one wonder.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    I think you are doing great at 75, Laurie. Keep up the reading and the writing. Don’t worry about the multi-tasking. Just keep on-task. It is enough.

  3. John Shutkin says:

    Tougher to write about, Laurie, but I am glad you chose to write about the serious and sad impact of memoirs loss with aging. We can only laugh about it so much, especially as we see it t bit closer and closer to home. There but for the grace of God, … right? And we may be the next one there.

    That said, thank you, too, for including the inspirational Nora on your story, too. Things may be inexorable, but we can still find value and hope in where we are.

  4. Marian says:

    We never know how our brains and memories will evolve, Laurie, and we can express gratitude for what we do retain. Your story is sobering but tender in its way. I had one grandmother with Alzheimers, so occasionally I do shudder if I don’t multi-task well or forget something, but we all must carry on and smile about the lapses when we can.

  5. Suzy says:

    I agree with Khati, not going to read Memento Mori. Thanks for the warning! And thanks for a very thought-provoking story. As others have said, may we all be like Nora! (But did she really read something called Hamnet, or did you mean to say Hamlet?)

  6. Thanx Laurie for laughing with us at our senior moments, but reminding us that for some it’s no laughing matter.

    Now at age 77 with a 78 year old spouse, and friends in their 70s and 80s, and in the midst of Covid to boot, we have to seize each day as best we can and stay healthy!

  7. In your first paragraph, Laurie, I mentally checked off six senior moments I, too, have experienced. There’s some solace in knowing we’re all in this together, albeit at various stages. For some reason I always find myself wondering if people like, oh, say, Helen Mirren and Richard Branson have such moments. It’s hard to imagine that they do, but of course all the talent, fame, and money in the world can’t staunch the march of time. May we all follow Nora’s example, or Jenny Joseph’s: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple / With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”

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