Trying to remember not to forget

Published 1:45 am Saturday, September 20, 2014


“I’m going right inside and mark the date on my calendar or I’ll forget it,” I told my friend as I stepped out of her car. We had been discussing an event we wanted to attend. “And,” I thought as I unlocked my front door, “after I record it, I hope I remember to look at my calendar.”

Like me, have you overloaded your brain with so much data that there is no more room for more? I recall when I once forgot an appointment with a friend, she replied that it was okay because she thought something more important had come up and I just could not make it. That was so sweet of her. With those kind words, she paid me a compliment I did not deserve.

It puzzles to me to be able to remember vividly something that happened in my childhood, but forget where I put my car keys five minutes ago. And another thing: why do we forget the names of people we see and associate with often?

Recently I pulled out a pair of scissors in a cup on my desk to cut a strip of paper. Five minutes later, the scissors had disappeared. It must have taken ten more minutes to discover their hiding place, right there against a book on the desk.

I was next in a Wal-Mart checkout line last week when I remembered I had not picked up dog food. It was on the top of my list, the lack of it the very reason I had visited the store. As I confessed my oversight and made a quick turn out of line in the direction of the dog food, the customer checking out commented he did things like that all the time. I noticed he didn’t have any grey hair on his head. I especially appreciated his comment.

One day I answered the telephone to a familiar female voice saying, “Who is this? I forgot whose number I dialed,” the confused caller said, laughing. I’ve certainly done the same embarrassing thing myself.

Well, I can’t really answer why we forget what we forget. I once read a theory or two about memory, though. It suggested that the brain uses different processes to store and retrieve different kinds of information. Older people’s brain storing and receiving processes slow down with age. Early memories, it said, have been there longer and recent ones compete with them for space. Ah, ha, if you use computers and other electronic devices, that knowledge might help you to identify with that theory.

The article suggested some memory enhancers that might help, like paying more attention to what you hear and read. Make a habit of putting things in the same place all the time. Make lists to jog your memory. Do things to make memory active—working crossword puzzles, reading, or learning something new, like playing a musical instrument.

I think I’ll follow some of these suggestions. That is, if I don’t forget…