My kids are always teasing me about the early onset of Alzheimer’s – indeed, my daughter regularly asked if I’ve had myself tested recently. I’m convinced this is prompted partly by the fact I cannot recall much before the year 2000 and partly by my avowed intent to live life in the present. Nevertheless, as a result, I’m constantly ‘aware’ of potential examples of personal absent-mindedness.
Yesterday I went for a drink with a close pal. Eventually.
It all began when he rang me out of the blue last week, whereupon we fixed to have lunch in the Ailsa Tavern, near St Margaret’s, close to Richmond.
I was on hand promptly, as is my wont, at the appointed hour (12.30pm), bought myself a pint and settled at a table in the corner of the pub, having already identified a problem. The publican had advised that Mondays were the chef’s ‘day off’ and so cooked food would there be none.
Ten minutes passed with me sipping my drink and perusing my diary, complete with my list of ‘agenda’ items. This was not a problem – having worked for years with my prospective lunch partner, I knew that punctuality was not the same issue for him as it was for me. In my days of yore, my principle upon waiting for others was ‘ten minutes for a man, fifteen for a woman’, after which I regarded myself as having met my side of the bargain and free to move on to other things.
As my watch clicked past 1.00pm, I therefore rose from my seat. Plainly, my intended companion had either forgotten our ‘date’ and/or had been overtaken by events. Sadly, I wasn’t able to discover which because I’d forgotten to take my mobile phone with me. In any event, I was now free for the afternoon and, having trudged through a sudden monsoon of a downpour to where I’d parked my car, I drove home intend upon nothing more than re-heating a portion of left-over shepherd’s pie for my lunch.
Having reached home at about 1.20pm, I duly glanced at my mobile phone and noticed I’d had a missed call from my pal at about 12.45pm. I listed to the voicemail message. It consisted of him announcing that he – and a contact he had invited to our meeting without my knowledge – were in residence at the Turk’s Head in St Margaret’s … and they were wondering where I was.
I immediately rang him. They were still at the Turk’s, so I jumped back into my car and sped to join them. After a short period dripping in embarrassment and apology, me accepting 60% minimum of the blame for the mix-up simply because my pal was adamant he was right, we duly had our session, which passed satisfactorily.
However, I remained – and remain – convinced that we had agreed to meet at the Ailsa Tavern.
I was able to find supporting evidence for this in my email account – on Saturday, I had emailed him (a postscript to our original telephone conversation) on a specific subject I wished to discuss, ending with a sign-off ‘See you in the Ailsa at 1230 hours on Monday …’
I’d had no response from him, querying that comment, or at all.
This episode reinforces a truism that I’ve referred to previously.
It is probable that, as we get older, we do become progressively forgetful and confused.
But there is also a self-fulfilling degree to which – even though this may not be the case in fact – when others themselves forget details of arrangements, or just get them wrong, but assert forcibly enough that they have done no such thing, those of us who are ‘on guard’ for personal signs of mental degeneration have an erroneous tendency to assume that we are the one at fault.
When, quite often, we aren’t.
The sad fact is that, as we get older, because others insist again and again that such occasional ‘misunderstandings’ are caused by our deteriorating minds, in the end we give up and accept this as the case.
Which, in itself, accelerates the very mental deterioration we’re being accused of.