Letters to Leo and Grady
Mother’s Day

Forgetting

Forgetting

I have a vivid memory of our son Seth at age 18. He came into our kitchen one late afternoon, and headed for the refrigerator, as usual. He opened the refrigerator door, paused for a couple of seconds and said. "What did I come here for?"

Now, when I stand in front of the refrigerator, clueless about what I am there for, I am comforted by that memory. If he can forget at 18, why should I be worried at 70?

About twenty years later (last week), a young graduate student came to my office with a question I couldn't answer. I wrote down the name of a colleague who could solve his problem, and gave him directions to her office. We chatted a bit, and then he left. Moments later he returned to tell me that I had forgotten to give him the paper with the name on it. "Oh no," I replied, "You folded it and tucked it away in your backpack." He insisted that I was wrong, so I wrote the name down again. He folded the piece of paper, opened his backpack and saw the paper I had given him five minutes earlier. He apologized. I, however, was grinning from ear-to-ear.

Here's my point. Why do we 70-somethings attribute every momentary lapse to our ageing brains or bodies? Young people forget too. Of course, young people can do many things that we can't. But we should bear in mind that if those young people are lucky, someday they'll get to be our age.

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