Hard drive in the head could use a good cleaning

June 27, 1999|By SUSAN REIMER

I recently wrote a check to a very bright woman who came to my home to clean up the hard drive on my computer. She sorted through computer files the way people used to sort through paper files and threw out wastebaskets full of megabytes.

(Literally. The little waste basket on the screen filled up with flying sheets of paper and then dumped itself with the touch of a button on the keyboard. If only life were like that on recycling day.)

Anyway, after she left, the computer operated much more smoothly and completed its tasks much more quickly, and I began to wonder if there was someone out there who could clean up the hard drive in my head.

I wondered if someone could put me into a twilight sleep and then clean out all the stuff in my brain I don't need to remember (like how to pin a diaper so that you do not stick your child in the hip) and all the stuff in my brain I would like to forget (like how the boys treated me in sixth grade).

I wondered if I might operate more smoothly and complete all my tasks more quickly. But I'd settle for remembering what I went into the kitchen for.

When I was able to remember the formula for circumference and the conjugation of the verb "to be" in French during recent homework battles -- when those facts sprang to my lips without my even thinking -- I realized that there were things in the attic that needed to be carried to the curb, so to speak.

Information like this might be helpful for a couple of years of middle school, but I would gladly toss it out to make room for things like where I am supposed to be today.

Alzheimer's disease is so much in the news these days that we baby boomers think we might be afflicted if we so much as forget where we put the car keys. But it is only when we forget what car keys are for that we should worry. And by then, we will be beyond caring.

No. Most of us would settle for being able to remember the name of the person we are speaking to. Or the two things we needed at the grocery store. Or what it was we just read in the newspaper.

My mother used to make a list of things to talk about before she phoned friends and I laughed at her! Now I forget who I am calling and why in the seconds it takes for them to answer the phone.

My children take advantage of these lapses by saying, "But Mom, I told you I was ..." and I am at a loss to scold them for sloppy account- ability.

And my marriage is suffering because my husband insists that I never tell him my plans and I can't remember well enough to tell him that he is wrong.

There is research to suggest that foggy memory is yet another symptom of menopause, although I forget where I read that, and doctors are recommending estrogen as a treatment. (Estrogen is apparently the cure for whatever ails women. Soon doctors will suggest it for those of us who can't cook.)

But there are all sorts of other recommendations for improving memory. Among them: take a memory improvement class, learn bridge, listen to Hector Elizondo of "Chicago Hope" and take ginkgo biloba, drink coffee, do crossword puzzles, eat chocolate, reduce stress levels with meditation, take piano lessons, reduce your intake of fats and eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables?

Now, where was I going with this ...

Pub Date: 06/27/99

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