Memory-loss worries? Forget about it
OK, bring on the mackerel, kale and crossword puzzles -- anything that, even if clinically unproven, is supposed to help you remember why there is a paintbrush in your pajama pocket or the name of the book you once said changed your life.
Some elder-pride advocates say, phooey, the memory-loss stuff is overblown. I would like them to explain, in that case, why I so often go from second floor to first for reasons forgotten during the journey.
And isn't it suspicious that, having entered my third decade of AARP eligibility, I sometimes find myself staring into the freezer compartment as though surprised by the sight of ice cubes and without the slightest idea whether I am looking for string beans or raspberry sherbet?
Everyone fears Alzheimer's -- no joking matter -- but, aside from that stark diagnosis, memory block is just the way of things. You get older, and you not only forget that the Cleftones sang "Little Girl of Mine" in 1956 but that you already took your daily dose of Metamucil.
Researchers think it all has to do with cell loss and brain shrinkage and various physiological conditions best discussed during happy hour at the annual neurologists' convention. Whatever explanation offered by science, the bottom line is simple: Most of us are in the sticky-note phase of life. Write it down or risk the worst.
For sure, that's what I should have done during a recent weekend stay in Brooklyn, where I frequently go to reconnect with my roots.
Parking was tight on Lincoln Place when my wife, Wink, and I arrived, but in less time than it takes to order bubble tea at the new Vietnamese sandwich shop, I found a spot just big enough for our Honda Fit on Berkeley, a block away. Wink and I grabbed our bags and headed to the little, one-bedroom apartment that has been in the family since way before Park Slope was, well, Park Slope, a hot neighborhood with rents 20 times my father's weekly paycheck. Thirty minutes later, we were on the way to a favorite Mexican joint with an old pal, Demetri. He drove.
We talked for hours, overloaded on enchiladas and topped off the evening with coffee and a shared slice of tres leches cake. Just before midnight, we were back in front of our Lincoln Place retreat and ready to call it a night.
After thanking Demetri for the lift, I looked down Lincoln and saw a parking spot.
"You go up," I said to Wink. "I'm moving the car."
"We're missing 'Saturday Night Live,' " she said. "The car's fine."
Yes, the car was fine on sedate Berkeley Place around the corner, but, for me, parking on another street has always seemed a small setback. One block away this time, two the next, before long I'd be looking for spots in Staten Island.
"I'd just feel better," I said.
"I'm getting into pajamas," said Wink.
On Sunday morning, my son, Craig, and I walked around Prospect Park and then visited a bagel shop on Seventh Avenue to replenish any calories that might have been lost.
Our bagels wrapped and bagged, we started walking back to Lincoln Place. A block before, at Berkeley, I said, hey, I parked here last night. I think I'll pull the car around to Lincoln.
I walked a few steps and stopped. I gasped. I bent at the waist. I held my head.
"No," I moaned. "No, no, no-o-o." The Fit wasn't there.
A few years ago, car thieves struck while we slept. Police in Brooklyn have plenty to do besides tracking down 10-year-old Civics, and we never saw the little white hatchback again. At some point, we learned its fate: stripped bare near Kennedy Airport, sent to a salvage yard in Jersey and compressed to what I suppose was the size of a wall safe. Now, our beloved Fit faced the same humiliating fate.
"Dad!" said Craig. "Don't have a heart attack. It's got to be here."
"Gone," I said. "It's gone."
Craig put his hand on my shoulder and we walked -- my gait weary as a man being led away in chains -- to Lincoln Place. I contemplated calling Wink, who by then would have been watching "Meet the Press," but decided this was not the sort of news to break by cellphone. "Hi, honey, guess what? We're taking the LIRR home today."
Oddly, when Craig and I turned onto Lincoln, we came upon a gray Honda Fit, but from the bumper stickers and window decals I could see it was not mine. Absurdly, desperately, I hit the unlock button on my car key, anyway. The Fit in front of us did not blink or chirp. Why would it? The owner was someone else.
But, suddenly, my son called out.
"Hey, Dad," said Craig. "There it is!"
How could it be? I thought, still clueless.
Two cars ahead, obedient as a bassett hound, my Honda Fit blinked its rear lights.
"Holy cow," I said to Craig. "I forgot."
Well, that's something, all right, I said to Wink, back in the apartment. I blanked about moving the car, thought the Fit was stolen and found it by a fluke on the street.
Turning away from David Gregory, Wink raised an eyebrow. "Do me a favor," she said. "Next time, send yourself a note." OK, I promised. I'll try to remember.