Saturday, August 2, 2014
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Lest we forget, aging has its downside

My hair is gone, my knees are gone and now my memory is a memory.


Posted on June 15, 2014 at 5:14 p.m.

I am standing at the front door, locked out of my own house. If this were a movie, it'd be raining. Thankfully, this isn't so it isn't. But the reality is embarrassing enough without any Hollywood embellishments.

You see, we have this digital lock. To open it, you input a numeric code. We bought it months ago and I've been using it without incident. But now, standing out here in the dark, I am, suddenly and for no apparent reason, stuck. After a moment, with more hope than confidence, I punch in some numbers.

Some wrong numbers. Instead of the lock disengaging, the keypad displays an intimidating red "x." I search my brain for the right numbers, but it's locked tighter than the door. I can't remember.

I find myself saying that a lot lately as I creep toward the 30th commemoration of my 30th birthday. Reminds me of an old expression: "Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most." Don't know who said that. Maybe I once did but if so, I don't remember. Indeed, the list of things I don't remember is growing long.

There is, for instance, my employee ID number, necessary for filing expense reports and viewing pay stubs. (Yes, they pay me for this. I'm as surprised as you are.) But it's not just numbers. The other day, I was telling this guy about taking my granddaughter to the circus. I'm going on and on about this stuff I bought her that's fluffy and sugary and it comes in clouds of pink and blue and you eat too much and it makes you sick. Finally, mercifully, he says, "cotton candy?" A few weeks ago, I have to ask a colleague what's that word for a person who receives money after the death of a family member. "Heir?" she says.

"Yeah," I say to her. "Duh," I say to myself.

Numbers and words are bad enough. But I also walk into rooms for reasons I can't recall, open browsers and can't remember why.

As the author of a novel ("Before I Forget") about a man with Alzheimer's disease, I regard this warily. But somewhere in my research for that book, I ran across a doctor -- forget his name -- who said if you have the presence of mind to wonder if you have the disease, you don't have the disease. Alzheimer's is not about forgetting where you laid the keys. It's about forgetting what keys are for.

But if I don't have Alzheimer's disease, it seems apparent that I do have Oldtimer's disease, and an advanced case, at that. OD won't kill you, but it will frustrate you near about to death.

Thank goodness my mind is still a steel trap for the important stuff.

Sports? Magic Johnson is from Lansing, Mich., played his entire career for the L.A. Lakers, went to nine NBA Finals and won five.

Music? I can still nail Philippe Wynne's famous ad-lib from the end of "Mighty Love" -- every grunt, shout, stammer and howl.

Literature? Amazing Spider-Man no. 44 was "Where Crawls the Lizard" by Stan Lee and John Romita.

None of which helps me open my front door.

I stand out there longer than I should, punching in wrong numbers. Finally, with a sigh, I call Marilyn who's inside, and explain my predicament, trying not to sound as sheepish as I feel. My wife gives me the code without comment, a small kindness for which I am grateful.

My hair is gone, my knees are gone and now my memory is a memory. Life, it seems, is just a voyage into decrepitude. Or at least, so I am grumbling to myself until I read where George H.W. Bush just marked his birthday by jumping out of an airplane -- and he's 90. Ninety! So maybe I should stop whining, and just write the lock code down. Because maybe what life really is is a thing to be seized, held tight and wrung dry every day that you have it.

I get that. No, seriously, I do. It's just that, of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.

(Wait ... did I say that already?)

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)




 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announces a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire beginning Friday between Israel and Hamas, in New Delhi, India, Friday Aug. 1, 2014. During the 72-hour cease-fire, there will be negotiations on a more durable truce in the 24-day-old Gaza war, the United States and United Nations announced. (AP Photo/Lucas Jackson, Pool)

Posted on Aug. 1, 2014 at 11:15 a.m.
 FILE - In this April 20, 2013 file photo, members of a crowd numbering tens of thousands smoke marijuana and listen to live music, at the Denver 420 pro-marijuana rally at Civic Center Park in Denver. Organizers of Denver’s annual April 20 marijuana festival announced on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, that rapper B.o.B and singer Wyclif Jean will headline the event as they try draw a big post-legalization crowd and shake the memory of last year’s event, which was marred by a still-unsolved shooting. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)

Posted on Aug. 1, 2014 at 11:00 a.m.
 House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio defends the work of the GOP during a brief news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 31, 2014, as Congress prepares to leave for a five-week summer recess. The institutional split of a Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate has added up to inaction, especially in a midterm election year with control of the Senate at stake. Lawmakers have struggled to compromise on a handful of bills to deal with the nation's pressing problems amid overwhelming partisanship.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Posted on Aug. 1, 2014 at 10:35 a.m.
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