I’ve often thought that one of the most frightening things about getting older is the slow decline of your mental facilities. Especially for someone who has always been on top of things, it must be frustrating beyond belief to feel the organized life you have carefully constructed slowly slipping away. In fact, when I was younger (and considered myself one of the organized ones), I used to fear this process quite a bit.
And then I had my son, Clyde, and I stopped worrying about it so much.
No, Clyde isn’t some kind of miracle memory cure. In fact, the preceding sentence is probably the first time in Clyde’s (admittedly short) history that the words “Clyde,” “miracle,” and “memory” have all been used together. But while Clyde might not be a cure for memory loss, he certainly is a cure for the fear of memory loss, and surely that’s the next best thing.
How does he do it? The same way you cure any phobia: desensitization. Think of it this way: if I was afraid of spiders it would probably be recommended that I try to desensitize myself to this fear in small increments. First I would be instructed to think about spiders for as long as I was could, and only when I could do that without breaking into a cold sweat would I then be shown a picture of a spider. After I was okay with that I would be put in the same house as a spider, and then the same room, and so on and so on, until finally I would be able to hold a spider in my hand, at which point I would either die of fright or be cured. (Actually, I think I would be cured either way—dead people aren’t afraid of spiders.) The point is, though, is that I would be cured. Just like I am now “cured” of my previous fear of memory loss—all thanks to my wonderful son, Clyde, and his amazing memory loss desensitization program.
Of course, with Clyde’s program you do miss out on some of the beginning stages of desensitization. And by “some” I mean “all.” In other words, Clyde’s program is basically the equivalent of dropping an arachnophobe into a swimming pool of tarantulas. Or at least that’s what it felt like to me.
Here’s a typical day living with Clyde. Wake up. Have Clyde tell you that today is the day of the “big” field trip, and that he needs to be at school in fifteen minutes with six frozen squid (or something equally hard to obtain at seven in the morning.) Panic. Get Clyde to school on time, squid in hand, only to be told by another parent that the field trip is actually the NEXT day. Relax. Have the other parent add that they don’t need frozen squid, they need a yard of cow’s tongue. Panic. Spend all day searching for cow’s tongue. Pick Clyde up from school. Have Clyde say, as he gets in the car, “By the way, I have to be back here in half an hour for my concert.” Concert? “Yeah, the concert. It’s fifty percent of my grade.”
I’m not sure which is worse: having Clyde tells me something at the last minute, so that there is that element of doubt mixed in with my panic (Really? You have to be there at five in the morning? With squid?), or when another parent casually drops the bomb, so that instead of doubt I feel that stomach-clenching sense of shame. (“You didn’t know? I wondered why you weren’t at any of the mandatory parent meetings.”)
Luckily, as time goes by those feelings of shame have become less and less intense. I guess Clyde is helping desensitize me to that, too.