Shuffle the Cards
Living with short term memory loss is a really disconcerting
daily experience after acquiring a brain injury.
Much of the time it doesn't really matter, but there are some
times when I wonder if people who know me are really taking "the
mickey" out of me. For example, my wife and I often play a hand of
cards after breakfast. Though they are just simple games, they
still require a certain amount of concentration which in itself is
The challenge of remembering
The rot sets in at times like these. When it's time to shuffle the
deck, "It's your turn - I did it last game" I declare. "But this is
our first game" comes the response! Or I say "that's it - I won two
out of three" with the response "but this is only our second game"!
Unless I write these things down, they get lost in the mist and
maze of neural networks that might be working or not! I think there
are times when I'm quite certain I'm right, but I'm unable to call
her bluff because I can't remember! All in all, it's a good
This morning I put some almonds in my right pocket, and some dog
bits in my left. It was "walk the dog" time, and the bits were
rewards for sitting before crossing the road, heeling, and so on.
The almonds tasted particularly strange until I discovered that I
was feeding the dog my almonds and myself the bits. Wrong pocket!
Journals, notes and post-its
How much we depend on short term memory, and what a windfall for
the manufacturers of post-it notes and small cheap writing pads.
However, I must confess that I hardly ever use notes for these
daily trivia. It is far too much of a bother. My journal is a much
richer mine of information. The note writing is most handy when it
is written by my wife in point form - an instruction sheet for the
day's activities while she is at work: clean your teeth, take the
meat out of the freezer, hang out the washing, make sure the taps
are turned off, make sure you turn the stove off if you use it, and
Even though I some times feel as if I should have a handkerchief
pinned on my front, and my play-lunch in a handy bag, I really am
glad for the notes. I return to this decorative note on the kitchen
bench many times through the day. It is easier if I tick off the
ones I have completed, and I've only had a few accidents. If I
start the washing up, I have learned to stay present at the sink
until I turn the water off.
One memorable day I started the taps running, turned around, got
distracted (the mail man came) and then spent quite a while mopping
up because I had forgotten what I was doing.
YOUR TURN TO SHUFFLE THE CARDS
The only really dangerous one was leaving the hot plate on.
Fortunately I came out to make a cup of coffee and discovered it
before any damage was done.
Do you know me?
New social relationships are problematic. I have changed my query
from "Do I know you?" to "Do you know me?" I think I've really
upset some people when I used the former question. The latter just
seems to be less pointed. I think I also need a photo album to
carry around with me, complete with names of people I meet, and a
miniature biography. The diary system I used to use in pre-ABI days
had a pad of tear off leaves to insert into my diary called
"Significant people" or something like that. I think they are out
of print now, but it is a good idea. The little sheets had all
kinds of information spaces like name, address, wife's name, kids
names, likes and dislikes and so on - all great information for the
business man, but I guess all a bit useless these days!
A rock and a hard place
How strange memory is! I have my passwords securely locked inside
my head. I can recall them when necessary for banking, or eftpos,
or my phone number. It will be a shock some day if these get lost
inside my cranial custard. And yet I don't want to commit them to a
hard copy for security reasons. Kind of caught between a rock and a
hard place on this one.
I CAN remember visiting the neuro-psychologist for help on various
matters. He was a kindly older gentleman, and very helpful in some
matters. However, when I asked him about memory, he went into a
convoluted explanation, using his hands to show "up here" and "down
there" and so on, and I was completely bamboozled. Other questions
attracted a far less detailed answer: "If the haemorrhage was on my
right side, why is the burr hole on the left side of my forehead?"
"I don't know" is the only specific question/answer I can remember.
But there were a number of questions that elicited the same short
I'm still trying to work out why it is that I CAN remember some
things, and find it difficult to remember others. All is not a
complete blank. It seems that many of the routine things get lost,
and some stand alone events stay memorable. I'm sure there is a
reasonable answer to this, but all-in-all it is a mystery. We must
have inside our head a facility for filing memories in some kind of
sequence, so they are both meaningful AND accessible. Maybe my
sequencing programme has been wiped or something. Maybe it would be
useful to work out some new filing arrangement. But then, so much
of what happens is SO forgettable, maybe not! Perhaps I'm ahead