Doc says it happens to many early retirees who are alone with Doo Wop, MSNBC, Perry Mason re-runs, and a cat.
You know, no idea where your keys and specs are for weeks on end, you bumble into the kitchen at 1 p.m. only to be cheerily-eerily surprised at the now-cold pot of Morning Joe you brewed at 6 a.m.
You know, writing and no words come, none; you're using Babylon to find great synonyms and turns of phrase only to close the site and instantly haven't a clue what you were looking for, what you found, or why you looked.
You know, get a call from a guy with whom you're regularly in touch, a guy who was your former student and great friend for thirty years only to have No Goddamned Idea Whose Voice This Is.
You know, she asks, "You really liked the chicken hot-pot from Fu-Shing this evening?" And you say, "Fu-Shing?"
You know, your well meaning son asks you for your card and 'X dollars' to help fix his Suzuki and you say "Yeah, sure; here!" to what turns out to have been a sincere request for 'X-ponential' dollars and you only recall something akin to the conversation when the bank statement arrives.
You know, like that.
So I called my doctor and arranged for her to give me a Thirty-Question Dementia Test. If I got fewer than 25 or maybe 24 or possibly 23 right, I'd be swaddled and bundled off to The Neurologist. And then carted off to Happy Acres.
I showed up on time; hopeful. But I always show on time, even well before on time. It drives T and G crazy. This time I was alone so it drove no one crazy except woman in Waiting avidly watching Steve Harvey when I said, "Guy's a moron-clown." She gritted her teeth at me.
Dr. P. called for me quickly and asked if I were ready. "To what? Get scientific confirmation that what my son has said for years is true?"
"What country do you live in?'
"What state do you live in?"
"What year is it?"
"What is today's date?" [I knew only because I read the 'Times' at 6 a.m.]
"Mr. W., they get a little tougher now." [I grasp my spectacles and nearly twist off an ear-piece.]
"Spell the word WORLD backwards."
"Very good!" [I am now flown back to Miss Jane's Kindergarden.]
"Now, If I give you 100 light bulbs, take three away and then take away twenty more, how many do you have?"
"Repeat these numbers in reverse order: 8317." [I do.]
She reads me a three-sentence story about Jack and Jill. Jill is a Chicago stock trader; Jack, her husband, appears to have no work, a Ward Cleaver acolyte. They have three grown children, two daughters and a son who simply exist. I am asked what state they live in. I elicit a smile when I say "Illinois". I am asked about other aspects of this compelling novella.
Finally, I get something wrong. Thank God. She'd asked me earlier to repeat back PEN, TIE, HOUSE, CAR, and something else. I have no idea the Something Else.
She shows me a triangle, a circle and a rectangle and asks me to mark the triangle with an "X". I think of the "X-ponential" I'd donated to the local motor cycle repair shop. She asks me which figure is the biggest. I ask, "In terms of interior area?" She looks at me as if she's dealing with an idiot. I say, "The rectangle." She smiles.
She says, "In one minute name all the kinds of animals you can. Go!" I recall saying "Marmalute! No...Malamute!" I say close to forty in sixty-seconds. She says average is 23 or 25. The Dominoes ain't got nothin' on me. "I'm Your Sixty-Minute Man. Second. Sixty-Second Man. Whatevah."
She says I got 29 of 30 overall. She says the average is far less. I say, sure, but it's a somewhat self-selected group of Dement-oids.
She says, "Well, no need to see The Neurologist. Lotsa people who retire early and work alone all day writing and reading...watching politics and listening to music as you do...MULTI-TASKING...experience this..."
"I wouldn't say it quite that way."
"Okay. What would you say?"
She sticks out her hand. "Great to see you, Mr. W. Let's do a follow-up in three weeks!"