Him: What are we having?
Me: Roast, with those leftover thingies from yesterday, with a bit of .. you know ...
Me: Yes, mashed potato which I thought I'd mix with some ... some wotsit from the fridge
Him: What, the butternut .. er ... stuff?
Me: Yep. Can you hand me the silver thingybob?
Him: This sieve thing?
Me: The colander. That's it. Colander.
Him: Do you want me to ... to ... sort out the whatjamacallthems?
Me: Yes, please. Can you ...
Him: Peel them?
Me: I'll do the oojamaflips.
Me: Give me one of those knife thingies.
Him: A knife?
Me: Yes, that one, next to the one we use for chopping all the ... you knows.
Him: Vegetables. Shall I check that the ... er .. the roast ... the roast... meat ... is cooked?
Me: Yup. Shall I do some thingy sauce, with those Bramley wotsits from the ... you know, the allotment?
And on it goes, the Litany of Vagueness that emits now from our thinning, ageing lips as we prepare dinner. I'm nearly fifty-five, he's sixty, but together our brains have a combined age of nine hundred and eighty-seven, especially when it comes to naming objects.
I fear we are regressing to the 'pointing' stage of 8 month old babies when *extend finger towards banana* means 'please give me that banana to eat or I'll scream like a broken siren until I'm spent.'
But if we cook dinner together via pointing, we could still be there at midnight, by which time we'd give up the struggle, throw the whatjamacallits back in the oojamaflips and the meatystuff back in the coldthingy and go to bed hungry.
Anxious about my erratic memory, I've completed myriad do-you-have-early-dementia Internet quizzes, googling 'Why don't I know the word apple?' although the problem isn't, in fact, not remembering. It's not remembering in time, the moment you need the memory. As a teacher, this is especially frightening. Simple facts land on the tip of my tongue and then dissolve like sherbet. 'Right, then, class. Let's get back to Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare's characterisation of Romeo's friend .... his friend .... his friend ... ('Mercutio, Miss? The one you taught the lesson about yesterday?')
I haven't yet said, 'Right, then, class. Back to Romeo and Jeanette.' But I have anxiety dreams about doing so.
The most I've ever scored on the dementia quizzes, though, is 2 out of 10. One of the questions is usually 'Do you easily get lost even though you are on familiar territory?' but I've been doing that since I was eleven, turning left instead of right, right instead of left, and flipping my A to Z upside-down, right-way-up, inside-out in an attempt to orientate myself. These days there are navigation apps for one's phone, but that would mean learning to use it, and when do I have time for committing that to memory while I'm busy wandering the streets, looking for destinations?
Don't think I'm poking fun at memory loss. It's a scary thing - I see it frustrating my 94 year old grandmother who can remember the names of childhood friends and TV programmes she watched in the 70s, but not my face until I get up close and say 'It's me. Fran.' And I have a friend my husband's age with early onset dementia who can no longer remember how to cook the Bakewell tart which lured people to her house on Sundays drooling like those big dogs with flappy jowls.
My only comfort is that perhaps my own memory loss is a temporary, menopause-linked symptom. Maybe when I'm the other side of the menopause, I'll suddenly remember everything I forgot and will stand in the kitchen yelling with joy: 'Pork! Butter! Colander! Egg! Spoon! Whisk! Carrots! Onions! Carving knife! Mercutio!'
That might alarm my husband, though, who would rather have me with some memory loss than a kind of kitchen-linked Tourettes.
|'I've made you this delicious pie, dear. Give me a minute and I'll tell you what I put in it.'|
I was reassured at a quiz night on Friday when I helped my team out with several questions in the Literature round after squeezing my eyes shut and praying to my own brain not to let me down. I needed the encouragement: last year's quiz night saw me covering my face with my hands while everyone looked my way, touchingly sure that I'd know the name of a Steinbeck book or remember who wrote the Barchester Chronicles within the space of ten seconds. 'Sorry, sorry, sorry,' was all I had to offer as we left the spaces blank. As soon as we'd given in our answer sheet, I remembered the information. This wasn't a comfort to my teammates.
On Friday, though, we came sixth out of twelve teams. Things are on the up. Tomorrow, when I cook the dinner, perhaps I'll even say, 'Please pass me the whisk' without a hint of hesitation ...
... at which point my husband will say, 'Now, which thingybob do we keep the whisk in?'