A Reason to Smile: Just don’t call this old man “crazy”

by Larry Sinclair

It’s July, so that means it’s time for my annual visit to the doctor to get all my medicine prescriptions renewed. As I have previously acknowledged, I take every medication known to the pharmaceutical world. In fact, if you have any stock in pharmaceuticals and you hear that I have died, you had better sell that stock fast. Because some of the major companies may go bankrupt upon my demise.

At any rate, when I went in last week for my annual doctor’s visit, the nurse explained that she needed to ask me a few questions which they are now required to ask everyone on Medicare. She asked me what day of the week it was, what state we are in (to which I could have replied, “The state of confusion,” but instead I opted for “Texas”), and who is the president of the United States. Then she gave me some particular words which she would ask me to recall later. She also asked me to repeat, in reverse order, some sequences of numbers.
Amazingly, I must have done fairly well on those test questions, because the doctor later told me that there was no real indication of “cognitive decline.” That must have just been a strange quirk of fate, because my short term memory (particularly concerning names) is pretty bad. But as I like to say, I still have my lucid moments!

Anyway, the term “cognitive decline” got me to thinking. Just what is the best way to describe what seems to inevitably overtake us mature adults. I have some hesitancy about writing anything which could be construed as making light this subject, because mental failings will eventually become a difficult and painful issue for almost all of us. But to some extent I suppose it’s better to laugh about it (for as long as you can) than to cry. I used to get irritated at my late mother-in-law and father-in-law when they would laugh at themselves about their failing memories. But now I understand and believe that as the Reader’s Digest column is entitled, perhaps “Laughter Is the Best Medicine.”

I thought perhaps this article might serve as sort of a helpful public service announcement by informing you of at least the correct medical terminology for this frustrating but sometimes amusing mental phenomenon.

There are an amazing variety of informal labels for this problem. Perhaps one of the most common ways to describe an older person’s mental decline is to say that they are beginning “to slip” or “slipping” or “becoming more easily confused.” Those words sound fairly kind and gentle, but they do convey the idea. Sometimes, a little less sympathetically, people are said to be “losing it.”
Then there are a host of even less considerate references, such as “not playing with a full deck anymore” or “having a few bricks fallen off of their load” or “the bubble doesn’t center-up on his level anymore.”

I remember the story about a couple of young boys in my hometown who had apparently heard it said about one of our town’s unfortunate characters, that he had “lost his marbles.” The poor fellow obviously had some real physiological as well as psychological problems, one of which was to be constantly turning around and staring behind himself while walking around town. When the two boys met this man on the sidewalk one day, one them said to the other, “I wonder why he keeps turning around and staring at us?” To which the other boys replied, “ Maybe he thinks we found his marbles.”

Don’t bother commenting to me about this article, because I probably won’t remember writing it.