Monday, June 13, 2005

Short Term Memory

It has been pleasing to see my old dad, in the big community retirement home, where he is taken care of. Much of the time he seems exremely happy, and we've had many pleasant and even deep discussions with him. As with everyone his age, one day varies from the next, but most important to me is the fact that he doesn't seem to be suffering in any way. He lives in the past and his more recent life is more of a blur. Especially his short term memory is pretty far gone, and the same questions come up often, every few minutes. Since the doctors have cut back on much of his medications, my dad is much less confused. Only a specialist in geriatrics has enough knowledge about how differently an older body metabolizes medications. What is fine for a 50-year-old man will not work for a person twice that age. Patients often reach toxic levels of certain substances in their bloodstream.

Short term memory loss shows up in strangest places. Less than a year ago a respected local opera company and its general manager were most supportive of me, writing encouraging emails and even trying to get me to work. This summer they conveniently forgot to ask me to play their 'Ring' cycle, something I had done for a couple of decades. Obviously such a request had come elsewhere in the city's music circuits. Fine, I can live without the 27,114,387 notes. But as if rubbing salt into the wounds, they have been very determined to get a donation out of me as in the past. The phone has been ringing off the hook, and there have been numerous letters with 'we cannot survive without your support'. Each time I have politely asked to be removed from the donor list, but either the left hand doesn't know what the right one is doing, or it is simply a question of short term memory loss. Or perhaps they are counting on a similar loss with me; that I would have forgotten everything that has happened to me in the last 13 months. Sorry, but I don't see any reason to donate a dime, and I wouldn't encourage anyone else to do so either. Actually, I would advise any potential donor to carefully find out where such money really goes. My father may have trouble with his recent memory, but he is happy and well taken care of. I wish the local non-profits could be in an equally blessed situation.

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