Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dealing with Loss

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.

42 comments:

All the Way With Knitting said...

It will still come as a shock when you muddle words all the time ,typos you don't see ,lose your sense of direction ..can't walk far without pain in your hips but as for losing things I don't.Jeff ,on the other hand, does all the time ( he's 7 years younger).I've given up making him hats ,gloves and we have had more umbrellas than is reasonable. I have been tempted to put a string through his coat with his gloves on .He is far brighter than me ( who isn't ) but he is a big time loser ( if you know what I mean). I'm not sure it isn't a man thing or your mind is too busy running away with ideas to care about boring things.That would be fine but this stuff costs money right ......if I knew the solution I'd tell you .

debsnm said...

You remember what's important (although the alma mater????) - Umbrellas, obviously are not. I blame it on ADD - my kid has it, and I think I got it from her, because I KNOW I am NOT old! You may use my excuse - you're far enough away, no one will notice. :D

DianeS said...

I think it was Erma Bombeck that once wrote something about there was only so much room in her brain, so if something new came in, something less important had to leave.

Obviously, you have more important things on your mind, like amusing us, keeping Dolores out of jail, knitting and taking fabulous pictures.

By the way, did it feel like you were inside a Christmas tree while you were at the lamp shop?

AuntyNin said...

Okay, I have to ask - how in the world did you manage to lose a whole sewing machine? The other things, I can understand, as I seem to lose them with great regularity myself. I blame it on gremlins, 'cause I couldn't possibly be getting old.

Mel said...

My, sounds like something I could have written about myself, though I've become slightly better over the years at keeping my shit together, as it were. When I first got glasses at age 9, I used to misplace them all the time. Never went much of anywhere that I could really lose them. I think the only reason I managed to stop doing that was that my vision got too bad to do anything without them on, anyway.

Umbrellas? Well, I just came across one I'd packed away and forgotten, but I kind of got in the habit of not using them because I lost so many.

Joe said...

First of all, that was MY umbrella, and I want it back.

Second, I think I have Panopticonitis, if your symptoms are any indication of this acute disease. Thaddeus gets so pissed off when I forget to take out the garbage a mere 20 seconds after he asks, and yet I can remember a menu-branching sequence on a computer program that I haven't used for 3 years.

Vitamins and stress-reduction have helped a little...very little.

Bling!/Sezwee said...

I can top your taking the trash out with no pants or shoes...no keys.

I'd heard that taking ginko biloba helps with memory. I bought some. I forgot to take it.

Colleen said...

I can so relate to this post. Why, just the other day I lost a 10'x10' pop-up canopy.

marcia in austin said...

Oddly enough, I >found< a sewing machine once. Do you suppose it's yours?

Areia said...

From the Damien Memorial School website:

"Damien develops the total man--ethically, morally and spiritually--and strives to achieve in each student the school motto, "Viriliter Age."--"Act Manfully." "

Does knitting count?

Sister Sue said...

It might be genetic. I've probably lost as many umbrellas as you. This tendency to leave things behind is one of the reasons I don't generally carry a purse.

Check out that umbrella you found more closely. Maybe it's Amelia Peabody's. She always describes hers as 'stout.' See if there is a sword hidden in the handle.

June said...

My high school chemistry teacher (Frank Cardulla, in case he does a vanity search!) used to have a pet phrase - "A sieve may not hold any water... but it can hold another sieve!"

Debbie said...

This post reminded me of a Tom Waits lyric

"And I never buy umbrellas,
For there's always one around."

So rest assured that with every umbrella you lose, someone gets to stay dry that day. It's just not you.

I'm exactly the same way. I once left the house with two different shoes on and now, every once in a while, I get a little panicked in the elevator up to my office and I have to double-check my feet.

I think I probably need more sleep, but I have too much crap to do, so I've just decided to accept it as a quirk that's a testament to my eccentric brilliance. And that everyone is totally annoyed by my constant absent-mindedness. Luckily I forget about that part rather regularly.

LaurieM said...

I can't really relate. I still have the hat my mom knit for me when I was a child, more than 25 years ago. My brother went through dozens that winter.

I have two habits that help me. One is to create a place for things. Keys have hook on the wall, purse goes on the top shelf in the hall closet. The second is that when I misplace something I just wait and it generally turns up. If it never does, I've probably forgotten about it anyway.

Lyn said...

I just read yesterday's post, or rather, viewed the fabulous pictures. Do you sell your work?

Sorka said...

My husband lost MY keys walking from the van to our upstairs bathroom.. that was 3 weeks ago we still haven't found them.
I can relate..I do it too.. it most likely is ADD as your sister says she does this too..
The dwelling on the book when young.. hyperfocus.. it all fits..and it is truely amazing.. the things you can lose.. but I doubt it has anything to do with getting older.. so lose that thought!
Denise
knitchat.com

Stephanie said...

Be glad you don't have children.

There are laws about what you are allowed to forget then.

M-H said...

Boy can I relate to this. When Trivial Pursuit was big I was a champion, but I lose things all the time. Last winter I lost three expensive pairs of glasses. I now have a really attractive necklace arrangement to hold them (ugh). When I am an old lady I intend to entertain the staff in my facility by constantly singing all the sings that I was taught as a child. I've never forgotten any of them. But I certainly don't think it's ADD, it's just the way some people's brains work.

I need orange said...

You realize, of course, that it's not that you are dim, it's that you are too bright to be able to focus for long on something as dull as "where is my umbrella at this very moment???"

All of us in this household will readily become lost in something that interests us, and our house rule is that you can't expect someone to remember what you have said unless they are looking directly at you (with both eyes) when you speak, AND can answer correctly the question "What did I just say?"

Sarah Abbott said...

A friend of mine said that we're like those old absent-minded professors jokes. There's no room left (as Diane said). My husband and I are both like that. It is definitely a problem.

My friend and I have also decided that this is why we talk so airheady. We have so many words in our head that we can't find the correct one.

Adele said...

I'm also good at remembering trivia instead of important things, so I make notes for myself. I was going to say that I don't lose my diary because it never leaves my purse but you'd probably lose that too, if you had one.

As for losing things, I've trained myself to glance back and check for lost objects after getting up to leave a bus seat or whatever.

Jennie said...

That whole Hawaii state fish thing was a (cough) red herring, wasn't it? Apparently, the humuhumunukunukuapua'a is no longer the official state fish.

I am a loser of sunglasses (I buy 3 cheap pairs a year), keys (I now have a strict rule as to where they go, so I only lose them monthly), money (sigh), but not (touch wood) my kid... yet.

Sherry W said...

The best way to break yourself of losing hats and gloves...make a really fiddly fair isle set. You'll have a panic attack and check for them every time you leave the train.

If you lose them, you get to make another pair. Oh darn.

mad angel said...

Welcome back, Franklin! Put this is your memory and smoke it. [tee-hee]

Lake Charggoggaggoggmanchauggaggoggcharbunagungamaugg

Most of the locals call it "Webster Lake."

The name is Native American and it means, loosely translated:

You fish on your side, I'll fish on my side, and no one fishes in the middle.

The Today Show sent Matt Lauer there a few years ago for the "Where In The World" segment. I can't remember if he tried to pronounce the name, though...

marie in florida said...

what debbie said;
""So rest assured that with every umbrella you lose, someone gets to stay dry that day. It's just not you""

karma, eh?

Anne said...

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one like that. I haven't managed to lose my head yet, but I've lost just about everything else. Except for a sewing machine... haven't lost one of them. lol

Emy said...

I can't even tell you how many umbrellas I went through in college. I would manage to leave them everywhere, and it didn't help that it seemed to rain a lot in that town. It also probably didn't help that there was a Totes outlet not too far from campus, so I could replace the things for about $10. :P

Now, the sewing machine, that's something. I'm kind of impressed.

Vintageme said...

Mum you big fibber..you are always losing things.Mainly it's your scissors ,darning needles,glasses ( two pairs on your head !) ,your slippers ,your memory ! Hols.

Anonymous said...

I have done this too, and my solution is whenever I am getting myself together to leave (work, a restaurant, whatever) I turn back and look carefully where I was to see if I've left anything behind. Of course I don't always remember to do this (I'm still mourning an $8 yarn cutting pendant I left at a Barnes & Noble this past spring).

Cheryl said...

I've lost so many umbrellas, gloves, scarves -- I have lost count. And if I don't lose the umbrella they've turned inside out and the spines have broken. Seems to be the bane of existence for a person with a brain. The really unimportant things go by the wayside.....

now if you are like a gal I know, and leave your kid at a rest stop --then there is a real problem.

Rabbitch said...

I went to work with two different shoes on once. I limped around for some time, thinking I needed to go to the doctor as there was something horribly wrong with me until I noticed my feet. One black shoe with a grosgrain toe and a brass buckle (yes, I know, shut up, I was cute enough to get away with it) and one plain black pump. With a heel 1/2" lower than the other one.

I took it as a sign of brilliance and just carried on with my day.

may said...

forgetfulness 101: let go of umbrellas and have nothing to do with them. ever :)

Cortster said...

Ahhh, so THAT'S where all those umbrellas are coming from! I have about a dozen that I don't recollect ever buying more than, say, three of them. And the strangest thing about this is that I DON'T USE UMBRELLAS! I hate them. I'd rather get totally soaked (and stomp about in puddles which seems to really irritate people) than use a single umbrella. But people keep giving them to me. I don't get it.

Need an umbrella?

Jax said...

"Damien develops the total man--ethically, morally and spiritually--and strives to achieve in each student the school motto, "Viriliter Age."--"Act Manfully."

Oh, heavens, how did Kingsley and "muscular Christianity" get all the way to Hawaii?

Actually, I think Kingsley secretly would have liked the sarongs.

Anonymous said...

my brother was in the first graduating class at Damien High School. class of "66.
He is still "screwed up" from that school!! Auwe!!

Aloha!!

David said...

I've learned over the years to do a mental scan of what I need before I walk out the door. And I tried to never move anything from it's accustomed place. If I move my watch from the nightstand, I will not put it on in the morning when I leave for work. I will sometimes stand at the door and do a rundown (shoulderbag, phone, wallet, watch, lunch, etc).

Of course, I still forgot to bring my lunch today. It is sitting on the counter at home.

Sarah said...

I once found a lovely umbrella on the subway to Brooklyn. I felt a little guilty about taking it, but I did take it, nevertheless. I still have that umbrella...
But I lose other stuff all the time, especially knitting stuff. Where's that #4 needle? And where's that chart of the complicated cable that I know I wrote out just a few days ago? Lost in the depths of the stash/studio, no doubt.

Ella said...

We used to think our son, who is 14 never listened to us, until we had his hearing tested and found out that he has short term memory loss in his left ear. In other words if you talk into his left ear he only remembers what you said for aprox 3 seconds, after that it's like you never said a word!

alliesw said...

With me it is sunglasses....I lose them at the rate of at least a pair a week. I totalled my car about a year ago and my husband found 14 pairs of sunglasses--all of which I've now lost again! They say knitting helps the mind....

Catknit said...

The worst thing you can lose is your mind...
I think I may have temporarily misplaced mine though, this seems to happen on a regular basis, particularly Friday afternoons at work

Whining Procrastinator said...

My sweetheart has learned the bit about making me shut the book. It's kinda comforting to learn I'm not the only one who has that problem, and it's kinda nice that I share it with you. I most recently lost my best cashmere sweater, and I once left a digital camera behind at a restaurant. Nope, never saw that again. I try not to get too attached to stuff, since I can't keep it attached to me.

Eve said...

I'm the same way. ADHD?