Real Life

Capacity status: full

Regardless of age, we are all subject to moments of forgetfulness. Pat McDermott puts her ‘moments’ down to a lifetime of distractions.

Forgetfulness should also be called distractions.

I was making a cup of tea when I noticed the kitchen scissors were missing from the knife rack. I love those scissors.

I gave the Man of the House (MOTH) a hard stare. He didn’t know we owned scissors. Then I remembered I’d used them to cut some wrapping paper so I trotted to the dining room to see if they were there. On the way, I noticed an electricity bill on the table and detoured to the study to put it in the ‘too hard’ file, where I saw an email on the computer from an old friend. The tag read “there’s a new man in my life”. Of course, I had to sit down and write back straightaway.

Dear Sue, How old is this guy? Make sure you only meet him in public places. Remember, with your knees you can’t run for help. Do NOT pay for dinner. If he needs you to help him take showers he’d better be VERY rich. Check his bank statements. Pat.

I didn’t remember the missing scissors until two days later when I opened a packet of biscuits with my teeth. At my age, along with ‘not running for help’, you don’t want to be doing stuff like this with your teeth. The children tell me they think I have a condition called ‘age-related attention deficit disorder’. “Some people call it ‘distracted ageing’,” Courtenay explained gently.
“I do not have ADD and I am not distracted.

I am simply multi-tasking,” I said calmly. “But you don’t finish stuff before you start something else. Face it, Mum. You’re losing it!” said Patrick cheerfully.

Adult children are awful. You need to be careful around them. It’s like they can sense the changing of the guard. Perhaps it has nothing to do with my age. Perhaps I am just an easily distracted person.

My kindergarten report said so in black and white. “Patricia is easily distracted. She has not yet found her singing voice. Otherwise making pleasing progress.”
Perhaps I inherited a ‘distracted’ gene.

My mother made being distracted into an art form. She once sent me a box containing 100 pieces of unwrapped Blue Willow china. Only three plates survived. She never really understood the concept of bubble wrap, so her Christmas gift of a box of home-baked biscuits and two fragile glass bottles of maple syrup was another highlight.If I do have a ‘mild’ case of ‘distracted ageing’ I’m in good company because so does the MOTH and so do most of my friends. We often sit in companionable silence for some time while each of us tries to remember what we were about to say.

Here’s what I think. I think, at my age, that my brain is officially full. New stuff, like what I said a minute ago or where I left my mobile phone, has to squeeze in and fight for space. Sometimes, understandably, it gets lost – maybe for a minute, maybe for a week.

Yet it’s in there, safe and sound, among all the other memories, appointments, PINs and shopping lists. For example, I’m pretty sure the date of my next dental appointment is wedged between my childhood telephone number and the whereabouts of my passport. It’s only a matter of time before it pops up.

I’m grateful that when I was in charge of five children under the age of 12 I rarely forgot anything – school notes, sports days, parent/teacher nights, who’s driving who where and when. And although, from time to time, I did ‘misplace’ one or other of the kids, I always found them again. Or they found me. Which is much the same really. I kept track of them for 40 years. Maybe it’s their turn!

“Mum!”
“What?”
“We found the scissors.”
“Really! Where?”
“In the microwave!!”

I don’t think I should explain, do you?

Words by Pat McDermott
Illustration by Maude Guesne at Illustration room

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