I found an umbrella on the subway this morning. A well-made, stout umbrella. Heavy in the hand and with good smooth opening and closing action.
I mention this only because, in three-and-a-half decades of losing my own umbrellas (and hats, gloves, scarves, sunglasses, small personal items and, on one occasion, a sewing machine) this is the first time I have ever found one.
How depressing. If everyone lost umbrellas at the rate I do, they would litter the landscape like dandelions in July. But no. I’ve probably left at least four dozen of them behind in trains, taxis, restaurants, theaters, and so forth. Yet in all my life I have only run across this one visible instance of somebody else losing an umbrella.
Further confirmation of a long-standing truth: I’m dim. I have a mind like a sieve. A very old, rusty sieve. Through which somebody has pushed marbles. Big ones.
The problem: my brain is very seldom in the same place as my body. My parents learned this early on. If they needed to talk to me, and found me curled up with a book, it was necessary to take away the book, close it, and shake me a little to make sure I was focused. Otherwise I might well carry on a lengthy conversation about which I would remember nothing. Part of me would respond to them, but the greater part would dwell on the interrupted novel.
Tip for kids reading this. When your mother says, “Why didn’t you cut the grass like I told you to?” remember that “I guess I forgot you asked because I wasn’t really listening to you” is not a good answer.
I’m capable of remembering some things. For instance, the wives of Henry VIII, in order. And how to spell the name of the Hawaii state fish, and my recipe for brownies, and how to take pictures without a light meter using the “sunny f16” rule. How to conjugate Latin verbs, the capitals of the fifty states, and the basic tenets of several schools of philosophy. The cloying alma mater of my dreadful high school, words and melody, is imprinted on my cerebral cortex with indelible ink.
And yet so often I have only just stopped myself from leaving my apartment in the morning to take out the trash with no shoes on. Or pants.
I've gone so far as to ask physicians if there’s any help for this problem. Nope. One suggested writing things down in a little notebook. I tried it. Lost the notebook.
The best I can do is learn to live with myself. I buy umbrellas in pairs: one for me, one for the general public. I no longer bother with expensive gloves, hats, or scarves. I don’t own a sewing machine, but if I should acquire one I’ll keep it chained to the wall.
And I often comfort myself by contemplating the approach of old age. With a brain like mine, perhaps the onset of senility won’t come as such a shock.
Postscript, about an hour later: I've just come back from the gym, and realized I left the umbrella in the locker room.