The Thought Was Just There by
(319 Stories)

Prompted By Senior Moments

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Now why did I come into the room?

The word was just on the tip of my tongue.

What was the name of that actress in the movie we just saw?

How about the one where your husband INSISTS he is correct when I can prove he isn’t, or that he’s told you something when you know he hasn’t. I’m sure he thinks he has; it was on his mind. He just never told ME! Does that one ring a bell?

I used to have the BEST memory. No longer and believe me, it frustrates me no end. I am far from dementia, but I know I am not what I used to be. I could memorize long monologues from plays for my acting classes (as I had to do regularly). No problem. I could memorize an entire piece of music after several weeks of practice.

Particularly scary is not knowing how to get somewhere when I’ve been there hundreds of times. I have to stop and think before I set out to drive. “Now, HOW do I get there?” Sometimes I turn on my GPS, even when I’m not going far. I just can’t remember. My shrink tells me this is a common phenomenon in post-menopausal women. That was somewhat reassuring, but sure, blame that on lack of hormones too.

I do not believe that doing puzzles or memory exercises will save me. I do think writing helps. I have to remember words. That’s a good thing. One reason I like to write stories ahead is because I often can’t come up with the BEST word as I write. So I like to let the story breathe a bit, and then a better word is likely to pop into my head at a later moment.

On both sides of my family, members lived well into their nineties. However, most suffered from vascular dementia (not Alzheimer’s, but they still lost their marbles; it wasn’t pretty). It is sobering to think about. Eating well, exercising and keeping active in spirit is the best remedy I can think of to try to keep it all together.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: been there, moving, right on!, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    Great advice always—stay healthy, or at least try to. It’s wonderful that people aren’t smoking and drinking as much as our parents’ generation. Writing stories and staying connected makes a difference too. And even if we don’t remember all the details, there is still wisdom from experience to share, if anyone listens.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      It is true that drinking and smoking are on the wane; all good! Does anyone listen to experience from the “older but wiser” generation, Khati? There is certainly a lot of wisdom to be gained. I’m with you there!

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    I hear you, Betsy. Since we moved over a year ago, if I don’t concentrate I find myself driving back to my old house. Of course, finding myself in a room without knowing why or not being able to come up with the name — that goes with the territory. I’m afraid my husband and I are both guilty of “I told you that before.”

  3. John Shutkin says:

    Excellent advice, Betsy. All things in moderation.

    I do crossword puzzles, but don’t really believe they help my memory, much as I wish it were so. But it is nice to know that we are not alone in fighting the good fight.

    Now remind me again. What were we fighting about?

  4. It is comforting to read your story, Betsy, and others, to know we’re all in this together. We all do so well in writing our stories…which I believe also helps to keep a lot of our memories intact. I, too, have had that feeling of disorientation…it makes me a little panicky until suddenly things click in and I’m back on track. Also fleeting moments of “Uh-oh!” — for instance, having the wrong word come out of my mouth instead of the one I’m thinking.

    As I keep hearing, “Getting old ain’t for sissies!”

  5. Your story very much resonated with me – I have had the same moments, and as my mother suffered from vascular dementia, it is hard to avoid wondering what lies ahead. I worked with psychiatrists and one told me – if you know what you are trying to remember, then you are okay. It’s when you can’t even remember what you are trying to remember that you should worry. We are all on the same road.

  6. Marian says:

    Betsy, it’s reassuring to know we all are going through this together. Like you, I could memorize long passages of theater dialog with no trouble. Not now! My sweetheart and I go through that “I know I told you that …” dance frequently. Ah, well, stay healthy if we can and enjoy what we can!

  7. John Zussman says:

    I can relate—and don’t know anyone our age who can’t. Of course, the classic senior moment story (which you’ve told in these pages, I think) is when your car was, er, stolen, right?

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I almost told that story here, but it wasn’t actually a “senior moment”. It happened in December, 2003, just before I turned 51 and was more the result of stress (I have not written about it for Retro). But it surely is a classic. I don’t have any photos of that car (guess I could find one on the web). Perhaps I’ll write a second story later (if we don’t lose power tomorrow during Henri and I have lots of time). It is classic. Dan mentioned it too.

  8. Suzy says:

    As others have commented, the things you describe are very familiar to me too. Your very first line is something I say more often than I care to admit. That’s one of the glories of our Retrospect community, that we are going through all these life passages together. And you and I have been Retro sisters for more than five years now!

  9. All us Boomers can relate Betsy!

    But even when I was younger (and long before GPS) I’d often stop and ask directions, even if I was pretty sure I knew the route. Why did I do that?

    Then I read You Just Don’t Understand by Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor, explaining gender differences in communication style.

    Men are stubborn, she reminds us, and often will not ask directions. My father was once driving and we were obviously lost. My mother told him to stop at a gas station to ask directions and he refused. She started to count aloud the gas stations they passed before he finally stopped.. None of us ever forgot that story – and BTW my mom counted SEVENTEEN gas stations.

    Women, Dr Tannen tells us, will stop and ask directions even if they know the way – we just like to be reassured!

    Sounds right to me.

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