Has the mental shift begun?
I was in an unfamiliar shower this morning. As I toweled off, I started to feel unstable—I turned, and groped for the edge of the tub with my toes. It took a bit of time, likely a much smaller “longer-than-expected” than it felt like. I thought, “Now I’m getting so old that my…”
and stopped myself. Give me a break. However not-young I may be, I get routinely beat down when I claim any aged-ness. I don’t think that’s due to the ever-shifting line drawn by the beaters-down, either… though that could be worth looking into.
But here’s the deeper thing I think: it’s not the incident, but the frame, that makes the thinker “feel old.”
I have, before this, figured I was thoroughly re-framed. Or pre-framed, if you like. Because at sixteen I had a conversation with my grandmother that lodged like a burr in my brain.
We were gathering up to leave the apartment, presumably to go clothes-shopping. (Best. Personal Shopper. Ever. And best bargain-finder, too.) I was rummaging around for my shoes, my purse; she had her purse and was rummaging around for her keys. Which were being recalcitrant. She said, “I’m getting old; I’m getting Alzheimer’s. I can’t even find my keys!”
In a way, this floored me, though I have a much better poker face than that. At that time I had a thoroughly-deserved reputation back in my neighborhood for being unable to find my keys. At any moment of any day. My mom’s best friend gave me a keychain with a 1.5″x2″ lucite picture-frame dangling from the side for my fourteenth birthday, pressing it in my hand and telling me she hoped that it would be easier to keep track of, so I wouldn’t be always knocking on her door to borrow her key. (She’d put a picture of my little sister in it. Sneakily effective.) I also stunk at keeping track of sweaters, sweatshirts, swim caps, writing implements, water bottles, lunch boxes, notes… pretty much anything I might lay down because I didn’t need it for a moment or two. Out of hand, out of mind…until I needed it again, at which point I was far away from the object, with no clear memory of having parted from it in the first place.
Out loud I said, “Well, if not keeping track of your keys is a sign of Alzheimer’s, I am doomed. I can’t find my keys now, and I’m only sixteen!”
I mean, really. Losing track of one’s keys is the proverbial example of losing things. So it happens to all the people of all the ages all the time. It’s more a statement of my grandmother’s concerns—or the not-so-joking concerns of her friend-group—that she linked it with Alzheimer’s. (Which she did not have then, or later. She died after she broke her hip and couldn’t go independently home… she was ninety-one, and didn’t take to the idea.)
You can see why I would figure I’d re-framed myself for good…
…until that narrative jumped me in this morning’s shower.
Now? Now I don’t know whether the cultural narrative will be steadily claiming ever-more of my default brain, of if I can maintain my current framework—preferably until it’s so rickety I’m the only one willing to put weight on it.