Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Garlic • TP • Hand soap

I had to run some errands yesterday—little stops like the dry cleaners, the bakery, the library—and I planned on making the grocery store my last stop. I needed just a few things, three to be exact, and I can usually remember three things without making a list.

I’m not sure why three is my limit for testing my memory, but I wonder if it relates to the memory test doctors give to people they suspect of having Alzheimer’s. My father took this test, as did my father-in-law. Both men had the disease, but early on when we weren’t sure, they had to test their memory by remembering three words in order.

For each man, the three words were shown to them and then hidden, and they had to repeat the words. If they couldn’t remember them, then it was a mark against them and their future. That sounds harsh, but it’s not nearly as harsh as that damned disease.

Anyway, it was always the same three words with each visit, and for my father-in-law, the words were TABLE • APPLE • PENNY. When one of your parents has Alzheimer’s, you can’t help but be nervous that it’s in your genetic makeup, too. It’s your destiny to end up the same way, so you do things to boost your memory and keep all those brain signals firing for as long as you can. You do crosswords and learn new things to make the cells work even harder, and you do your best to remember the words your father couldn’t, like TABLE • APPLE • PENNY.

So, when I have to go to the grocery store for a few things, I repeat the mental list to myself over and over so I won’t have to write it down. Writing the list down seems like cheating. Garlic • TP • Hand soap • .Garlic • TP • Hand soap •. Garlic • TP • Hand soap. But add a fourth thing to the list, like diet root beer, and it throws off the whole game. Not fair. My father only had to remember three things.

I decided to write everything down, then, including the three things I had memorized, and I held the little piece of folded paper in my hand as I pushed the cart through the store. By the time I got there, I actually needed a cart because I had added more things to the list. But what I found was that I didn’t have to open up the piece of paper because every item was all right there in my head—Garlic • TP • Hand soap • diet root beer • bottle of Chardonnay • unbleached organic flour. That’s difficult to say over and over again, but I only had to say it once.

I’m not suggesting it’s not in my genetic code that someday I’ll have Alzheimer’s. I’m just saying that at least for yesterday all signals were firing. I’ll take whatever I can get.

So, how about you? Are you able to stop by the store after a series of errands and pick up what you need without a list?


Shan said...

Is it wrong to find comfort in the failings of others? ;)

Actually I think if I live that long I'll surely go down that path. I embarrass myself all the time with my total lack of memory. I like to blame Nutrasweet but perhaps I should just stop blaming and start puzzling.

I rarely make lists (it's not in my nature) but I'm trying to get better at it so that I don't have to go to the store twice in one day (as in yesterday). Like you, I do better remembering if I write it down at some point even if I forget the list or lose it in the store.

In my twenties I was a waiter in a fine dining type of restaurant and I never needed to write down any of the orders that were usually at least three courses each.

Then I got married and had kids. Now my brain spits things out as fast as it comes in.

kyle said...

I have a decent memory but like Shan, it has faded since I became a mother (curious how that works).
I have alwyays been a list maker but I usually forget the list. I have simplified this by emailing myself the list. When I arrive at the store without it, I can use my Blackberry to retrieve the list.
If I am only buying three items I usually do ok. I repeat it like you do...honey, sherry, gorgonzola...honey, sherry, gorgonzola. And yet in addition to the honey, sherry and gorgonzola, I bring home $137 worth of impulse purchases.;)

Rich said...

I usually end up getting everything BIUT what I went out to get in the first place. I don't do lists, robyn, I'm a guy!!!

lynn said...

I have a different way, I say the list in my head in rhythm, that way it stays in your head. My son explained (psychology student) that successful memory depends on a path, so you need something else to commit it there, i.e. my rhythm or relating items to something else. I can still remember the list of a few days ago -
Bread, milk, loo paper, coffee-tea. lol! If I don't do it, I come out with three new items and nothing from the list.
Altzeimer's is awful, I've not had any personal dealings with it thank goodness but friends have. Apparently mind games ARE good for avoiding it. Those hand held computer block games are good too.

MmeBenaut said...

If I write a shopping list, as I usually do, partly because MB occasionally adds to it but also because I know I might forget something if I don't put it on the list, I can remember it in the store without referring to it except for one item usually. That one item might be the least important but I seem to forget just one odd item - something that I don't buy every week.
As for remembering table, apple, penny - I remembered it but for the life of me I can't remember garlic. tp. ??? Was it soap? See what I mean? It's always one item. Weird.
M.B's mother had Alzheimer's and I often wonder about M.B who is nearly 65 and has the memory of a sieve. Unfortunately I fear that he is headed in that direction but please don't mention that I said that.

dive said...

I SHOULD write a list, Robyn, and force myself to ONLY buy what's on there, because when I go shopping I just buy every darned thing and end up with cupboards full of stuff.
Hey ho.

Anonymous said...

I can remember, but if I don't make a list, I walk out with way more than I went there for.

I think i'm going to be thinking about Garlic, TP, and Hand Soap all day long.

Mark said...

Just writing a list helps me, because I remember visually, and I have a picture of the list in my head.

But guys don't use carts. When your arms are full, you quit.

lynn said...

Like your top hat by the way!