IT STARTS WITH AN M

IT STARTS WITH AN M

From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

It Starts with an M

“Doctor,” I said, “I keep forgetting things.”

“Like what?”

“Ummmmm.” What, indeed? There were dozens of examples, but suddenly I couldn’t recall a single one. “Like all the examples I was going to tell you,” I lamely finished.

“You’re probably just under a lot of stress.” Yes, I wanted to shout, the stress of knowing that my mind is disintegrating, piece by itty bitty piece!

Later, over coffee, my friend asked, “Why didn’t you save yourself the doctor visit co-pay and just talk with me? I could have told you what stress you’re under. It starts with the letter M.”

“Memory loss?”

“Here’s another clue: You could call it estrogen withdrawal.”

“Oh, menopause,” I said. “Well, at least it isn’t Alzheimer’s. Does this mean you’ve been forgetting things, too?”

“Let’s just say that I don’t enjoy watching Jeopardy as much as I used to,” my friend responded.

Her comment made me smile. I should probably come out of the closet now and confess that when I was in high school, I was on the It’s Academic team, a local television quiz show in which area schools competed every week.

I used to know all sorts of trivia, from the countries and capitals of Africa (my favorite was Ouagadougou, in Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso), to who wrote the song “Baubles, Bangles and Beads,” to who ran against Harry S Truman in his second campaign for President (trick question— he ran only once). Plus, for extra credit, there should not be a dot after the S in his name, as he always insisted it doesn’t stand for anything.

Nowadays, I’m lucky if I remember my own middle name. Too often, I find myself staring into the refrigerator, not seeing whatever I was looking for because I couldn’t remember what it was, only to close the refrigerator and go back to whichever room I had come from, sit down again, and remember: “Oh, yes, a cup of coffee!” Repeat that process a dozen times a day and then wonder where the time has gone.

Another thing I never remember is where I left my glasses. Every night and every morning my children must help in the search, because I refuse to wear the librarian-strings people give me. “As lost as Mommy’s glasses,” my son once contributed as an example of “simile” in English class.

Worst of all for a compulsive talker and writer, I have begun to find myself at a loss for words. “I know it begins with a K,” I said when my younger child asked me for another word for “curdle.” Six days later, I was driving the older one somewhere when it finally came to me: “coagulate!” Well, at least it sounds like a K.

I wonder if we could design a new game show for me. Let’s call it “Menopausal Pursuit” or “Menopause Jeopardy!” Categories could be “Names,” “Places,” “Objects,” “Faces,” and “Data,” all followed by the phrase, “ . . . that I used to know.”

For example: When you run into someone who “looks familiar,” do you at least remember having met them before? Good! Ten points! Do you remember where? Fifty points! Never mind their name—they probably don’t remember yours, either.

When your answer to a question is “I don’t remember the word, but I know it starts with an ‘S’,” you get fifty points. Or when a child picks up a knick-knack in your house, twenty points if you can remember where (or who) you got it from before it hits the ground.

And instead of Double Jeopardy when you pick the secret square, you will be randomly overcome with sudden hot flashes. And, in the Final Round, no one has to bother with the actual answer. Instead, full credit will be awarded to every contestant who leaps up after the answer is revealed and shouts out “I knew that!”

The prize will be a pad of paper and a pencil for writing down whatever it is you were looking for in the refrigerator. Just don’t put down “my mind.” That’s gone forever.

Judy Epstein

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