Loss Of Memory Or Too Much Information?


Part of getting older is sometimes struggling with what we comically call a “senior moment,” doing or saying something by mistake or not remembering details. “Where’s my keys?” “What did I do with the remote?” “Have you seen my phone?” “Did I tell you your brother called?”

Relax, dear readers, I have a theory. You’re not losing your ability to remember things. Maybe your brain has just run out of room to store memories?

Most of us have junk drawers or closets bursting at the seams. But when it’s time to add new junk, you can’t just make the drawer bigger.Something’s got to go. I think our brains aren’t much different.

As kids, we went through many years of school, filling our heads with lots of information. Back then, there was plenty of “space” to store things, so we remembered just about everything. There were state capitals and plenty of historical figures to remember, so we’d do well on tests. There are most likely math equations buried deep inside your memory that, at this age, you’ll never need.

Your parents pounded you with the rules of society and how to be a decent human being. If you came from an Italian family, you probably have hundreds of aunt, uncle and cousin names to remember. And don’t forget useless trivia. Unless you plan on trying out for the game show Jeopardy! sometime soon, you’ve got a lot of nonsense just taking up space.

Let’s get back to that junk drawer or overflowing closet. You need to reorganize every now and then, or you won’t be able to find anything. Your brain is an amazing organ. I’m sure it makes some tough decisions on what memories to keep and what to get rid of.

Some should be marked as “never delete,” like your kids’ names and important dates you must remember. If you forgot your friend’s birthday, you could always send them a belated wish. Not remembering your spouse’s birthday would be a fatal mistake. Try wishing your honey a happy birthday the day after. That’s a memory you won’t want to save.

For those of you that have a smartphone or a DVR, you understand there is a limited number of pictures or programs you can “save.” When you first get the device, you’re saving everything—35 photos of the same sunset, every episode of Seinfeld or your entire Beatles collection. But at some point, you have no more capacity to save anything. You must make some hard decisions and get rid of things you don’t need.

Take, for example, a simple question like, “What movie did you see last weekend?” Don’t worry if you can’t remember, it most likely means your brain’s memory coordinator is doing a good job. What’s more relevant to you, the memory of an insignificant movie or who made the last out of the 1969 World Series?

Try not to tax your brain by leaving keys in a different place every night. It might be more important to remember what day the garbage goes out or when the taxes are due. Of course, you could make it a lot easier if you just put those keys on the hook or in the key basket every night. That’s the first place you’ll look anyway.

So take solace, my aging friends. Your brain is probably deciding what memories you need and what you don’t. Don’t sweat the small stuff and let it hold on to those memories that really mean something to you.

Like my memory of Davey Johnson, for instance. He would eventually become manager of the Mets and guide them to a World Series championship in 1986. He also happens to be the guy who made the last out of the 1969 World Series. That’s something I’ll never forget.

Now, if I could just remember that movie from last weekend.

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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