Monday, May 01, 2006

My broken memory bank

Memory plays strange tricks, especially when you're as old as I am. I go to a movie and can't remember the plot the next day. But I can remember the makeup of the Detroit Tigers' 1934 infield. In case you're interested, Hank Greenberg was on first base, Charley Gehringer was on second, Marv Owen was on third base, and Billy Rogell was the shortstop. I can even go further and name Mickey Cochrane, the catcher, and the team's star pitchers, Elden Auker, Tommy Bridges and Schoolboy Rowe. I admit, however, that I am uncertain about who played the outfield.

I have trouble remembering the name of my neighbor across the street. But I remember that 62 years ago my first sergeant in the 903rd Signal Co. was named Rabitin and that he came from Barberton, Ohio. I'm introduced to some one at a party and almost immediately forget his or her name. I can, however, recall that my first-grade teacher was Miss Bayer and my third-grade teacher was Miss Nachenson.

I do a series of exercises each morning prescribed by physical therapists. I devote a couple of minutes to individual exercises aimed specifically for my shoulders, back, neck, knees, and legs. I start off with the shoulder exercise and by the time I get to my legs, I often forget whether I have already worked out on my shoulders. But I do recall that my Hebrew school teacher, who prepared me for my bar-mitzvah, was an unemployed accountant named Mr. Halpern.

I spend the year meticulously recording my medical expenses, contributions and other tax-deductible items so that I can do my income-tax return. I then forget where I filed the records. Nevertheless, I can vividly recall an incident involving my Aunt Lilly when I was five years old. She was then young, unmarried and living with my parents. One evening she came home from work, sobbing hysterically and pointing to the huge red headline in the now-defunct New York Journal-American. The headline reported the historic stock market crash. My unhappy aunt had invested her limited savings and had evidently lost all her money.

We have a dinner date in the evening, and my wife informs me in the morning the time of our restaurant reservation. By late afternoon, I've probably asked her a couple of times what time we have to leave. I do remember as a child, however, being in a car driven by my Uncle Bill and listening to my Aunt Esther, his wife, bawling him out for trying to light his pipe while driving the car.

I can be talking to an old friend, when suddenly I can't remember his name during the conversation. But I remember the middle initial of an old Army buddy, Owen L. Crenshaw, who I haven't seen or had contact with since the end of World War II.

I often can't remember what my wife and I had for dinner the night before. Yet I can recall that another Army buddy, Wally Swanson, who was as Swedish-looking as his Scandinavian name, once told me that his mother was Italian.

I set out to drive to my bank, and it dawns on me while I'm already on the road that I'm not sure I'm going the right way. Nevertheless, I can remember our apartment-house neighbors who were in show-business when I was a child. The family lived in a one-bedroom apartment, and I still wonder where the husband and their adult son, both nightclub musicians, and their adult daughter, a dancer, could have stored all the fancy clothes they wore when they went to work early each evening.

When walking into my bedroom during the day to find something, I frequently forget what I am looking for. Still, I remember that, when I was a boy, our next-door neighbor, a Mrs. Tuchman, had a nephew named Alfred Swidler, with whom I occasionally walked to school.

If I could only repair my memory bank by shifting some of my long-term capabilities to the short-term region, life would be much easier and less embarrassing.


Blogger Chancy said...

Nothing to be embarrassed about when you forget something. We all have spells of time when it is easier to remember the past than the present.

I always have thought that someone who is creative as you are has a more selective memory than a purely right brained person. Or is it left brain which controls the logical thinking?

For instance,

Our smoke alarm started malfunctioning last Friday afternoon late. Loud chirping sound like a BIG bird every 5 minutes. We were going out to dinner and it was difficult for my husband to reach it on the ceiling. I called our son. He said he would drop by on way home from work and check it out. We got back from dinner at 10pm. Darn thing still chirping. We called son who lives about 5 minutes away.

He said "OOPS" he forgot. Then he came right over.

Now if you or I or my husband had "forgotten" we would have said
"Elder Moment" but no. He is only 41 but he is extremely creative.

So don't sweat it.


Sunday, April 30, 2006 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger goldenlucyd said...

You can't believe how timely your post was for mr this morning. I'd been leaving comments with friends when I realized I was making major construction errors and typos. I went back to check and sure enough there were the most emabarassing goofs all over the place! I began to wonder if I'd had a stroke!

But no, I think, like my short term memory, which is no better than yours, it's just another part of being an elder. I also I find like like remembering times long past better than thinking about the current state of affairs.

People genuinely seem interested in our graphic memories of what to most folks is "history." Isn't that wonderful? If only I could convey the sounds and smells...

Monday, May 01, 2006 1:49:00 PM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

Dear Mort, Lucyd and all of you out there who are experiencing short-term memory loss. You'll be happy to know that there is hope. There is an interactive software program that is offered by a company called Posit Science ( and they have documented proof of improving memory and cognitive function overall. I've been using it and it's easy, fun and most of all, I feel that I'm doing something positive for mind, not just my body. There have been numerous articles written about them, the most recent in the Wall St. Journal, last Friday, April 28th. Check it out. Best of all, they have a money back guarantee. What do you have to lose?

Monday, May 01, 2006 4:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mort: How about Goose Goslin in the outfield for the 1934 Detroit Tigers? Do you see him there? And Heinie Manush--is he there too, in right field? As for Elden Auker, the first pitcher I ever saw throw a submarine ball--well, what I see best of him is my Yankees--Ruth, Gehrig, et al--just moidering the guy.

Seriously, as a contemporary of yours (I'm 81, going on 82 if I make it) and Jewish besides, just wanted you to know I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir of yours, as well as many another you've written.

Monday, May 01, 2006 5:01:00 PM  
Blogger saz said...

Hi Mort,

I'm a new convert to your blog and so enjoy reading it!

I had to call my 86 year old friend tonight and share your latest entry about short term memory. We had quite a laugh about it since both of us experience this all the time.....and I'm ONLY 58!

I call her every night to check on her and then we talk about her favorite subject - movies and the stars from the 40's and 50's. Most of the time neither one of us can remember the featured star's name but can come up with some obsure bit player's name with no problem. The last example of this was when she could recall Oscar Homolka playing the uncle in "I Remember Mama" with no problem.....I ask you....who remembers Oscar Homolka?

Thank you for giving us a good chuckle tonight.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006 2:35:00 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

I chanced upon your blog through a series of links. Was wondering if you'd mind if I linked to yours from mine? I foudn your posts thought-provoking, although I don't always know all taht you are talking about.

Waiting for your permission.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006 7:50:00 AM  
Blogger Melli said...

Ack! Okay... so you're an Octogenarian! THAT makes this whole post okay. But I have not yet reached 50 ... my next birthday! What the heck is MY excuse? Personally I find the whole short term memory loss thing horribly frightening ... my mother had alzheimers and, frankly, I don't want it! However, if I can make it to my 80's and still have the (what I HOPE is minimal) loss that I have right now, then I'll be feeling pretty good! In the meantime - I'm going to start carrying a pocket "recorder" and a note pad! I think YOU are doing great!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006 9:14:00 AM  
Blogger Deejay said...

Elden Auker? Big Six? I understand he still shoots his age (95) on the golf course. Check out his baseball career memoirs ("Sleeper cars and flannel uniforms", just out in paperback), one of the better baseball books of recent years--an unvarnished look at baseball in the 1930s. Thanks for the memories, although as a Cleveland Indians fan, age 67, I feel like an outsider punk kid in this Octogenarian company.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006 7:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Claude said...

Well Mort, your post gave me a good laugh and let me tell you that I am "only" 61 and have been experiencing the same thing for years.
Look at the bright side of it: if it was the opposite, then you wouldn't be able to delight us with those wonderful memoirs of yours!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006 2:44:00 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

Hey, just dropped by to say thanks. Oh, and apologise for the multiple typos in my last comment. Sorry!

Will be back.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006 6:40:00 AM  
Blogger Ivan said...

Morton, thank you for another good story.
SAZ was asking in his 02 May comment "..who remembers Oskar Homolka ? "
He played a Soviet officer in the (Len Deighton) Cold War film titled "Funeral in Berlin", a good action film with Michael Caine. The latter made his name as Harry Palmer in that excellent nailbiter of a film "The Ipcress File".

Wednesday, May 03, 2006 9:50:00 PM  
Blogger Leon said...

Chancy said it for me. I am 45 and can remember some things and not others. I get odd comments from younger family and friends about it.

Thursday, May 04, 2006 4:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Marios said...

Same here, I am 42 but my memory is very selective. Anything not of "importance" gets lost instantly.
It seems I also loose my hearing when I am working on something :).

Wednesday, May 10, 2006 2:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan said...

Mort, I loved this post, and you really helped me. My father, who is 89, does all these things. And my sister and I have really worried that his brain is flaking off in layers. He doesn't remember something I told him last week. In fact he doesn't remember things I've told him over and over. He doesn't remember the names of the various doctors he sees for his various ailments--the names change, because he uses the VA system and it's full of residents, so every year, sometimes every few months, it's a different doctor in every department.

Yet he remembers the phone number for his cousins' house from the 1930's. He remembers Japanese words he learned while serving during the Occupation in 1952. He remembers all of the sorts of things you remember.

It's reassuring to me for you to let me know he's normal.

Sunday, June 18, 2006 7:21:00 AM  
Anonymous Nell said...

Hello there Mort,
Wow.......what a gift you have! It's a good thing talented folks, like yourself, are allowed to retire, so that you can share yourself with amateurs like myself. Enjoy!...

Sunday, June 18, 2006 10:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

Just found your blog in the July/August 2006 AARP. I will visit often as I
enjoyed each of your writings. Thank you for sharing all your memories. I look forward to future writings.

Barbara - 69

Thursday, June 22, 2006 3:07:00 PM  
Blogger carol said...

My dad, a WWII paratrooper who died in Oct. 2005, could remember that same team during his last year of life. He grew up in Detroit. One of his last statements to me before he died was that he hadn't felt "this bad since the Bulge". I guess the really important things in life just stay with you until the end. By the way, my dad, Arthur "Dutch" Schultz, was portrayed in the WWII movie The Longest Day.


Sunday, August 27, 2006 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger carol said...

My dad, a WWII paratrooper who died in Oct. 2005, could remember that same team during his last year of life. He grew up in Detroit. One of his last statements to me before he died was that he hadn't felt "this bad since the Bulge". I guess the really important things in life just stay with you until the end. By the way, my dad, Arthur "Dutch" Schultz, was portrayed in the WWII movie The Longest Day.


Sunday, August 27, 2006 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Hydrocodone said...

2Alm0T The best blog you have!

Thursday, November 01, 2007 11:40:00 PM  
Anonymous JohnBraun said...

LS4GPK write more, thanks.

Sunday, November 04, 2007 3:12:00 AM  

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