Losing the Nouns

They say you lose the nouns first. That when you reach for the name of something, something innocent, like a whisk or nail clippers or a cantaloupe, and suddenly it isn’t there. No need to panic, you know it’s in there somewhere, but just for the moment, you had a little blank. Funny.

Maybe you’re watching a show with your husband and suddenly the name of the lead actor, someone you like and have known for years, is just gone, and you have to go through six degrees of the IMDB to find it – remember, he was in that thing with that girl with the red hair, and she was in that Batman movie with the joker, the one directed by that guy who did Inception. And when you read it, of course, it was right there all along, of course, of course.

“Go downstairs and get me that thingy,” I’ll say to the kids, and they’ll say, “What thingy?” and I’ll say, “You know, the thing with the black base and the buttons and the glass top part and you use it to make milkshakes,” and they’ll say, “The blender?” and I’ll say, “Yes, yes, the blender, of course I meant the blender.”

It’s been happening a lot lately. I’m only 45, still young, still lots of time to chase dreams and think about someday goals. But the words sometimes slip away, mostly in the evening when I’m tired, sometimes now happening in the late afternoon, too. A few months back I was at a store and something was on sale, but sold out, and I felt like an idiot telling the young salesgirl that I wanted, “You know, one of those coupon like things that you give when something is on sale, but you don’t have any left, and you can get one later?” and she was all, “A raincheck?” and I exclaimed, “Yes! A raincheck!” grateful she had put me out of my misery.

I sometimes feel a little panic – is this the start of something new? Early dementia? But a few of my friends have reported the same thing, the same slips. Just a little blank moment, how silly. Nothing to worry about, perfectly normal. So I’m very deliberately not worrying, not fretting, just carrying on carrying on.

Aging is a funny thing – you never think it will happen to you. But I feel it creeping around the edges, in my knees, in the fresh lines on my face, in the occasional hot flash. I’m not afraid to get old, just afraid there won’t be enough time to do it all, to see it all, to say it all. Especially before I lose the nouns for good.

10 thoughts on “Losing the Nouns

    1. Zhu

      YES, of yes! At the very beginning of the book, I was like “mmm… yep, I do that too”. Then it turned tragic.

    2. I’m kind of afraid to read it for fear that it will seem TOO similar. I mean, I know I don’t have dementia, but those very early warning signs – they could be anyone, no? It would just give me something new to be paranoid about :).

  1. I think it’s well-understood that some memory loss as we age is typical, and not necessarily associated with dementia. Doesn’t make it any easier though; this happens to me every so often as well (last week I couldn’t remember… that guy who, aw, dammit, I’ve forgotten who it was I couldn’t remember), and I think all those same thoughts.

    Keeping your mind active is a big part of keeping your brain healthy. Learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, doing Sudoku are good examples. I’m sure maintaining a blog is another good way – it’s creative, not repetitive, always a little different.

    1. I actually can’t imagine learning a new language now, or going back to school. The concentration and memory required seems beyond me now…but maybe it’s more like a muscle that needs a workout. Food for thought (ha ha!).

  2. I am having that too, especially since now I’m working with people with Alzheimer’s and dementia so I’m extra skittish: “IS IT HAPPENING TO ME NOW???”

    One helpful thing they taught us in training is that it’s totally normal aging if you can’t come up with a word or name and then you remember it later, even hours later. When it’s actual dementia, the word/name never does come to you later, and then you also don’t remember you were trying to think of a word/name. Another good marker: it’s normal to forget some details of an event, like forgetting if so-and-so was at that wedding, or what the cake was, or when it was; it’s dementia when you don’t remember attending the wedding. It’s normal to not be able to come up with someone’s baby’s name for a minute; it’s dementia if you don’t remember that they had a baby.

  3. I thought of another example I found reassuring. They said it’s normal aging if you completely blank on where your car is parked, just absolutely not be able to remember at all. As long as you can still FIGURE OUT A SOLUTION (that is, walk up and down the aisles to find it, maybe squeezing the key thingie to make the headlights flash), it’s not dementia. Someone with dementia will stand in front of the store, wringing her hands, absolutely unable to figure out what to do or think of any solution at all, or might do a totally WRONG solution, such as walking out of the parking lot and down the street to look for the car, or try desperately to get into someone else’s car.

    1. VERY reassuring. I was also wondering, do people with actual dementia even understand what’s wrong? or maybe they just have a general feeling of wrongness and panic? In any case, I will be keeping these in mind, thanks!

  4. If you’re ever worried about forgetting details, just listen to Serial and / or Undisclosed (listen to them anyway – fascinating!) and you’ll be amazed at all the different, conflicting memories, and everything people forget, and most of these people are in their late teens! Of course, it will also scare the heck out of you about how anyone, ever, can really get a fair trial, because humans are such bad witnesses …

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