When it took me an extra minute or two to remember the route I needed to drive to get to a grocery store where I’ve shopped since I was old enough to drive, I smiled and shook my head, trying to gently shake a little sense into my misfiring brain.
Since I had brain surgery Jan. 15 to remove a tumor, my brain’s hiccups have become annoying, if not a tad bit terrifying. When I got home from the grocery, I could not remember which key I needed to use to get in the house. I felt sure it was THIS one, with the purple plastic ring on it, and when I turned the key this way and that, but it didn’t fit into the lock, for a split second I started to panic.
“Why won’t this key work? What am I doing wrong?” I thought. Then, finally, several seconds later, “Wait. The lock broke, and we had to put a new one in; I deliberately put the new key next to the key with the purple ring so I would remember …”
I was not smiling as much as I had been upon the completion of my first solo grocery shopping trip, though I was relieved to unlock the door and carry the groceries in.
I began trying to have more open discussions with my brain: “Hey, brain, wake up. Yes, you! We need to talk. Now, look: I vividly remember looking at the restaurant’s sign when we pulled into the parking lot. We’ve not been here 10 minutes, so why can’t I remember the name on that sign; where am I?”
And more: “Didn’t my eyes send you the signal that these peppers are green? So why are you making me ask for red peppers on my sandwich?” And “This woman’s face looks so familiar and I know she is family – family I like quite a lot! So why can’t I remember her name?”
My brain shot me an image of itself shrugging.
Most of my brain’s misfires are minor, and my gaps in memory involve small details: I could not remember how to schedule my mammogram, and though I knew which building I needed to walk into, where, specifically, I needed to sign in and wait, was a black hole of nothingness.
Other odd misfires include not being able to remember several details involved with making tacos, forgetting that I’ve done something minutes after doing it and also forgetting to do something almost immediately after thinking that I need to do it. I even forget to tuck reminders I’ve written myself into my pocket so when I need them, I am left with that void. And my cat has probably had to adjust her canned food tastes a tad, because I can’t remember what I used to feed her.
I was explaining some of my brain misfires to my mother one evening and she replied, “Maybe it’s not your brain. Maybe you’re just getting old.”
My brain snickered.
“Shut up,” I said to my brain, “or I’m going to go stand on my head right now!”
My brain disobeyed and instead glowed with warm memories.
I may be disappointed or a little alarmed at what I can’t remember, or wrong words that come out of my mouth to explain something I’m thinking. But what I can and do remember is so much more important than a driving route to a grocery store, the name of a restaurant, the color of a vegetable or even the name of a family member who simply laughs and reminds me of her name.
I remember who my friends and family are and all the good and bad times we’ve lived through. I remember that God is good, and He’s got my brain, and all my life, in His hands. Though I may forget or fumble my key, I remember that He has always led me home.
Dawn Kessinger lives in Lima.