Alzheimer’s is the source of both the greatest fears and the most frequent jokes in my generation. Any time we forget something, we laugh (sort of) and claim brain fog.
Yes, in my case, it’s true that my complete inability to remember numbers is as bad or worse than ever, and when I was really on top of things, I often remembered people’s names the first time around. Though my numbers thing I suspect really is a brain mis-wiring, the lessened ability to remember names is largely laziness on my part. I think if you actually listen when people introduce themselves, you are more than halfway to remembering, and if you repeat it to yourself while looking at the person, or play a name association game, you are up to way more than a 75% chance, which will rise to 100% if you repeat the above when you have to ask a second time.
I am thinking senior brain has some positives to it as well. A few years back, when I was traveling in Italy and France, I found I couldn’t “code switch,” as linguists refer to it, meaning turn on the French in France and the Italian in Italy the way I used to do. I used to be pretty good at both languages, being able to carry on fairly lengthy and complex conversations, and rarely having to work around words, idioms, or grammatical constructions I hadn’t learned yet. I thought those days were over, and I would be reduced from now on to asking for the bathroom or the bill and little more, so it came as quite a surprise to me in Marseille yesterday that I was handling everything in French with ease.
I don’t know what to attribute this to, but I think some of it might be that my brain has cleared out whatever it was that was keeping me from code switching. It used to be that a couple of glasses of wine could do the trick, but apparently aging has the same effect. Maybe it’s that I care a lot less about being perfect, and will settle simply for being understood. Maybe it’s that I am not trying to solve the world’s problems in a foreign language, but just want to deal with hotels, restaurants, and shops. And drink wine too. Let’s not forget that!
Whatever the cause, I hope it lasts in both languages, and if it does, I am going to have so much fun, since I love the way it feels to sound words through the nose with a barely open mouth (French), or just let it rip from the chest and throat (Italian). Chissa’. Je ne sais quoi. It’s still rock and roll to me.