Looking like a lost cause

By Kris Ferrazza | Apr 19, 2019

When I was a child, my father often would refer to things as “a lost cause” or “a hopeless case.” I never knew exactly what he meant, but it seemed to refer to either a person who was beyond help, or a problem that was never going to be resolved.

Now that I’ve passed age 50, I’m definitely starting to get it. More often than not, I am the lost cause. I am the hopeless case.

One morning last month I was covering the front desk at work when the PE teacher came into the office. We exchanged pleasantries, then I went back to what I was doing.

“Is today the 13th?” I asked her, referring to the date.

A visitor appeared at the window, so I became distracted for a minute. Once I returned to the task at hand, I was stumped. What day was it?

“Is today the 13th?” I repeated aloud.

My teacher friend looked at me and tilted her head with a quizzical look.

“You just asked me that,” she said, a hint of concern in her smile. “And I answered you.”

“Huh,” I replied. “I must not have heard you.”

“You acknowledged it,” she said with a nervous chuckle. “You thanked me.”

“Oh,” I said, a little embarrassed.

This is the kind of thing that happens constantly these days. I repeat myself, and forget what I’m doing. And now I have a new talent: I make things disappear right before my own eyes. On Monday, I put the lid from the sugar bowl on my coffee mug, then looked high and low for my coffee. Imagine my surprise when I found my mug was masquerading as the sugar bowl.

Last night I “lost” my dinner roll after I accidentally hid it under the lid to a stock pot while serving dinner. I found it only after I had accused my entire family, including the dog, of eating it. That was awkward.

Finally, today my car keys slipped through a hole in my jacket pocket and I could not find them. I spent way too long patting pockets and listening to the jingling sound before I finally realized they were trapped in the lining of my coat.

Two words: lost cause. (Two more: hopeless case.)

Cooking dinner recently, I took a tablespoon of butter from the butter dish, but instead of slinging it into the nearby frying pan, I tossed it straight into my coffee cup. Yuck.

Last Saturday I took a shower and let my hair air dry. Two hours later, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

“Whoa, I definitely need to take a shower before we go out tonight,” I said, running a hand through my tousled hair. My husband looked confused.

“Didn’t you just take one?” Tim asked. I thought a minute. Why yes, I had.

Sometimes I feel I’m getting a sneak preview of what I’ll experience if I get dementia and completely lose it. Those around me will try to conceal their alarm as I say and do things that make no sense. They will humor me to the best of their ability, and I will try to cover up my confusion.

It’s started already, actually. I catch myself making excuses for my curious behavior. In fact, I always have a few “go to” excuses in my back pocket for such occasions.

The time of day, for example, is a good and convenient excuse. It’s always either too early or too late for me to behave normally. So if my mishaps occur in the morning, I claim I’m not awake yet, or need more coffee. Then, if I screw up later in the day, it’s because it’s getting late, it’s been a long day, I’m getting tired, or … you guessed it … I need more coffee.

Coffee is basically my drug of choice these days, and I am self-medicating at an alarming rate. From dawn to dusk, I always feel if I have just one more coffee, I will be awake and on top of my game. There may have been a time when that was true. Now, I feel that ship has sailed and my coffee habit is purely recreational.

Last month we filed our taxes. When we returned home from the appointment, I had a large folder of information. The packet included a payment slip to the state of Maine for a small amount of tax due. It was already in an envelope that was addressed and ready to go. What could be easier?

Fast-forward three weeks and I realize Tax Day is nearly upon us. I had to drop that tax payment in the mail. But do you think I could find the big folder? Nope. No folder. No payment slip. No envelope.

Here’s the takeaway: Lost causes can’t put things in “a safe place.” It’s a hopeless case. Those safe places end up being black holes. So I have no idea where the folder is now. We had to call our tax prep people, get the total due, address our own darn envelope and put the check in the mail. At least it got postmarked prior to April 15, so I don’t expect my readers will need to bake me a cake with a file in it.

But the list goes on and on: I suffer from directional challenges, parking lot confusion, password amnesia and scheduling screw-ups. I regularly accuse those around me (even my pets) of doing things to confuse me and sabotage my happiness.

Just this week I approached my favorite checkout aisle at the grocery store. Although there were people in line, I noticed the light was off, indicating the clerk was closing. So I continued to the express lane. Once there, I realized I had 16 items, which is two over the limit. Being a law-abiding citizen, I turned my cart around, rolled back toward the closed lane, and recognized the person last in line.

“Hi, how are you?” I said, and stopped to talk. As we chatted, I automatically started to unload my groceries onto the conveyor. The clerk pointed to her light and politely told me she was closed.

Oops, I knew that. So what did I do? I rolled right back to the express lane and started unloading my cart. Halfway through, I remembered I was over the limit and was mortified. Talk about an emotional roller-coaster. Fortunately nobody busted me for my two extra items.

My husband eases my dementia fears by telling me none of this ridiculous behavior is truly new. Back in 2001, nearly 20 years ago, we went to Fenway Park to watch a Red Sox game and I forgot to bring the tickets. He married a lost cause. So I guess I found my hopeless case.

And the beat goes on.

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