Article Date: 1/1/2010

Something to Cry About
lessons learned

Something to Cry About

Memorable lesson from those who forget.

JACK RUNNINGER, O.D.

“Why are you crying,” asked a bystander as an elderly gentleman sat on the curb, sobbing.

“I got married a few months ago to the most wonderful woman in the world,” he replied. “She's 50 years younger than I am, and gorgeous, but she loves me passionately. She takes good care of me, and she's a marvelous cook as well.”

“Why, then, are you crying?”

“Because I can't remember where I live,” he sobbed.

The epistle I wrote last month was about the problem of hearing loss as I get older. But there are two additional difficulties that come with age. One is memory loss. I can't remember the other.

Advantages

There are some advantages in having a bad memory: You can put on your own Easter Egg hunt. You need only two books in your library. You meet new friends every day. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them, etc. But they are counter balanced by the difficulties a bad memory can cause. For example:

Before he passed away, my great friend Dr. Bill Sullins and I were having lunch together. He was telling me of some episode. With my old age hearing, I had to ask him to repeat it. With his old age memory, he couldn't remember what he had said. True story. (Not that everything I write isn't true.)


ILLUSTRATION BY AMY WUMMER

Even Einstein

I was happy to learn that memory problems have nothing to do with lack of intelligence. I read that in his later years, Albert Einstein was riding a suburban train one day. The conductor came by to collect tickets, but Einstein couldn't find his.

“It's okay, Dr. Einstein,” said the conductor. “A man of your eminence doesn't have to show me a ticket.” Nevertheless, Einstein continued to search his pockets for the ticket.

“You don't need to show me a ticket,” repeated the conductor. “You don't need to continue looking for it.”

“You don't understand,” replied Einstein. “I have to find the ticket so I'll remember where I'm going.”

Love life, too

Even love life can be complicated by forgetfulness. An elderly gentleman in a retirement home fell in love with another resident, and one evening asked her to marry him. The problem was that the next morning he couldn't recall whether she had said yes or no. Thus, he had to suffer the embarrassment of phoning her to find out.

“I apologize, but with my bad memory I can't remember if you agreed to marry me when I proposed last night,” he told her.

“Oh, I said, ‘Yes, yes, yes!’ And I meant it with all my heart!” she replied. “There is no need for you to apologize. As a matter of fact I appreciate your phoning, since I couldn't remember who it was that asked me.”

The lesson

The reason I bring all this up is to help you better understand how to deal with your older patients. For example, you need to remember that they often are not going to remember your verbal instructions. Thus, you need to write them out. Even this might not help, because they may forget to read them.

Like the old gentleman who told me he had purchased memory pills.

“Do they work?” I asked him.

“I don't know. I never can remember to take them.” OM


JACK RUNNINGER, OUR CONSULTING EDITOR, LIVES IN ROME, GA. HE'S ALSO A PAST EDITOR OF OM. CONTACT HIM AT RUNNINGERJ@COMCAST.NET.

Optometric Management, Issue: January 2010