I’ve forgotten the name of one of the most famous women in the world. She’s the daughter of the star of ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ whose name I have also forgotten.
I can picture their faces. In fact, I was looking at the daughter’s face through an episode of ‘Arrested Development’ when I realised I’d forgotten her name. That was about 15 minutes ago and it hasn’t come back to me yet, although I have, just this second, remembered Judy Garland.
I can remember that the daughter starred in the screen version of ‘Cabaret’, and I can picture her in that. I can also remember that she was, in recent memory, married to a guy called David Guest who was, I believe, a music producer of some sort, although mainly famous for being married to one of the most famous women in the world. The daughter of Judy Garland and star of ‘Cabaret’ no less.
I’m still writing, and the name is not sneaking in via some back door. What the hell is going on?
I’ve been drawing similar blanks over the last 6 months or so. I usually let them ride and, sure enough, after a little while and some distraction, the missing name, and it always seems to be a name, comes back. This time I haven’t let it ride and it seems only to have compacted the void. I know I can solve it in five seconds by googling, but what will that solve? I have a hard, round hole in the part of my head that used to store the name of Judy Garland’s daughter and I do not seem to be able to think myself back into knowing that single solitary fact.
I have wondered to myself as these lapses come and go whether I’ve simply reached a point where my head is just full. There are too many songs, too many catchphrases from 1980s sitcoms, too many people, too many places, too many memories and so, as new information finds a home, it does so at the expense of an old piece of data that I can probably do without. I’m working hard, immersed in family life and constantly tired. Surely that’s going to take a toll? And perhaps one of the ways it might is to cause unusual gaps in one’s mental rolodex. My wife would tell me that she never remembered that woman’s name in the first place, so I’ve nothing to worry about.
Maybe. But all that sounds to me like self-deception, pure and simple. Even worse, it sounds like exactly the sort of half-baked explanation I came up with when, approximately 7 or 8 years before he died, having suffered terribly with late-onset multiple sclerosis, my father sat me down and told me he was worried because he was forgetting words in certain situations. “Don’t worry Dad,” I told him. “It happens to everyone. It happens to me all the time and I’m 30 years younger than you.”
But what happened to my father does not happen to everyone, and he knew that what was happening was substantial and serious. I read recently about some research suggesting that a significant number of dementia sufferers know they have a problem before they get anywhere near a diagnosis. I think the piece even went so far as to suggest that one of the most effective ways to spot dementia in its very early stages is simply to ask someone if they think they may have early stage dementia.
I say I think the piece suggested that, because I can’t trust my memory, and I am terrified to look it up. And I still can’t remember the fucking name of one of the world’s most famous women.
Update: It just came to me, from out of nowhere, an hour after I started thinking about little else. That’s too long.