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Popping rivets on the way to the grave

“Well … I forgot.”

Been saying that a lot, lately.

“Uhhh … I didn’t notice.”

That, too.

“Oh, really? I didn’t see it.”

“What did you say? I couldn’t hear you.”

The first comment I make while driving. The second, I utter anywhere, any time, while doing just about anything.

I’m falling apart.

Things are going down the drain — memory, eyesight, hearing, attention to detail.

I’m a wreck.

Oh, sure, I still go to the gym several days a week. I lift heavy objects and put them down again. If sufficiently motivated, I’ll hop on an exercise bike and do some cardio. Despite my aversion to being out of doors, I’ll take an occasional stroll about town. Physically, I suppose I’m kind of holding my own.

Otherwise, I’m popping rivets; the structure is crumbling.

I’m reminded of this last Friday.

“Do you realize you reprinted your column from two weeks ago?”


“You put the same column in again.”

I hustle to the morgue and retrieve a copy of the issue in question.

Sure enough, I did it. There it is: the column in the tab section is the same one I put in two weeks ago.

What happened?

My first thought: brain cancer. I invariably leap to extremes when seeking explanations for mistakes.

My second theory: Someone put the column in to make a fool of me. Probably someone connected with the New World Order. I’ve been reading e-mails and letters from conspiracy theorists for so many years, their paranoia has rubbed off on me.

My final idea: I’m feeble.

Of the three, this is probably it.

I’m degrading at an alarming rate and, in this case, in the eye of the storm that brews when one puts together the contents of a newspaper, I folded. I was in overload mode and my circuits failed.

I feebed out.

It’s been happening with increasing frequency of late.

I got to the age where I could draw Social Security and, suddenly, I lost much of my grip on existence.

I check others of similar age and it is obvious I am not alone. Most of my peers have trouble with their eyesight. A great many of them wear hearing aids. Anyone have trouble remembering names, numbers? Yep. Anybody getting a bit goofy? Indeed.

Get a bunch of my peers around a table and there is little exchanged that involves precise calculations, detailed recollections.

It’s feeb discourse. Our short-term memories are shot, so we tell the same old stories. We’ve heard them fifty times, but we listen, anyway. Our mental abilities are fading, fast.

Evidence for that turns up any time politics and society in general takes center stage. People who wanted to go to Woodstock now wonder how to sign up with the John Birch Society. Where once they valued adventure and creativity, they now seek concealed weapons permits and worry about teens wearing hoodies. Where once they were concerned about the less fortunate among us, the downtrodden in society, they’re worried now about entitlements, protecting Medicare and whether or not Dick Cheney will survive his heart transplant. Where once they quoted Rumi and Kerouac, they now tout the second amendment to the Constitution (and urge getting rid of four through six).

The world was once their oyster; now, they won’t eat oysters for fear of contamination.

An entire generation is feebing out. That’s us — the Boomers.

I sit at my desk and ponder the problem with the reprint.

What else have I missed? What have I forgotten, failed to see, couldn’t remember, didn’t hear?

My wife, Kathy, has the answer to the problem. She reads more books on health, medicine and longevity than anyone I know. She is, as a result, a total pain in the butt when the topic of my steady erosion comes up. I want sympathy, she wants control.

“It’s your diet and your bad habits,” she says. “If you would only listen to me, things would improve. Of course, you can’t listen to me, because you can’t hear me and you refuse to get a hearing aid.”

“Huh? Say that again.”

“And you insist on putting so many harmful substances into your system. Your diet … fats, dairy, meat … it’s wrecking you. And this habit you have of drinking a cocktail every night, and your wine consumption, well…”

That reminds me, I need a Manhattan. I’d forgotten that.

She’s no doubt right. But, I, too, am on the money when I note decline is inevitable, but the ride needn’t be absent some fun. One can suffer the illusion that a frightful amount of exercise and an obsession with “clean” living will slow the decline, but it’s happening and a lot of it is determined as soon as the genetic deck is shuffled when sperm hits egg. As a result, a measure of pleasure should be a big part of the last frames of the flick.

Those of us who are on the glidepath to the Big Airport should be turned loose, pleasurewise, not unduly restrained. If we’re not going to be able to hear you, we should have a good buzz on while you talk. If we can’t remember your name, we should do so suffused by a pleasant glow, our breath reeking of fine cheese and cured meats.

But, what can I do to deal with the memory prob, so as to not repeat my reprint mistake? Is there a nod to “clean” living that might actually make my pursuit of pleasure more … pleasurable? Surely I would enjoy things more if I weren’t struggling to remember the simplest things, making embarrassing mistakes.

In this best of all possible worlds, the solution surely involves eating something.

What foods are alleged to boost memory?

I sneak a peek at a few of Kathy’s books and come up with a list of memory-boosting foods. To my surprise, some aren’t tasteless, health-food-store staples.

For example: fish. Several tomes sing the praises of sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon.

Oven roasted salmon, with a harissa aioli? Kathy will be on the lookout for mercury, but I can get away with it: I’ll switch the “Wild Caught” sticker from one package with the “farm-raised” sticker on the one I buy. Grilled saba? Probably not, but the mere idea stimulates memories of a fat Japanese mack sizzling on the grill, sending out a fishy alert to every cat within 10 miles, the cold-water beauty to be eaten with wads of shredded daikon, plenty of shoyu and thinly sliced rounds of serrano pepper. See, I remember. It works!

Predictably, most of Kathy’s resources tab a number of fruits and veggies, most of which I like and can use in some way in recipes. Blueberries, apples, grapes and cherries are all malleable items, to be enjoyed in combination with savory companions or included in sweet concoctions.

Broccoli is mentioned, frequently. I’m fond of roasted broccoli, or broccoli added to certain pasta dishes.

Red beets? Not so sure about this one. I knew a very old woman who loved red beets. Ate them all the time. Couldn’t find her way out of the bathroom.

Eggplant and onions.

OK, now we’re talking business.

To go with the salmon: ratatouille and an onion tart. Make the ratatouille eggplant-heavy. Tomatoes will add some lycopene to the brew, and that’s a good thing, no? Onions, garlic? Good for you, huh?

The onion tart … well, let’s hope the abundance of onion will compensate for the crème fraiche, bacon and eggs needed to make the thing viable.

While a tart shell is blind baked, you fry a bunch of bacon. When done, the bacon goes on a paper towel on a plate and into the pan goes a mess of thinly sliced onions. They are cooked until soft and golden, cooled, then mixed with crème fraiche, beaten eggs, the crumbled bacon, salt, pepper and nutmeg and the mix is poured into the tart shell and baked till grandly golden.

That’ll do it — a memory booster, for sure. If I eat enough of it, I will remember I did so and I’ll enjoy the experience all the more for it.

I’m going to go to the store to purchase what I need for the meal.

As soon as I can find my wallet and my keys.

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