On the Firing Line 

Published in Brazos Living (February, 2023)

            One Writer’s Dilemma

(with apologies to Robert Frost)

Whose words these are I think I know,

who said them’s lost in memory though.

They will not mind me stopping here

to prod enough to make them show.

My old brain must think it queer

to pause without a stopping place near

Between my supper and bedtime break

with a deadline looming dark and drear.

My head gives my brain a shake

to ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

of yawning pleas to stay awake.

I could give up, and count some sheep.

But I have a deadline to keep.

And much to write before I sleep.

And much to write before I sleep.

That’s a shameless plagiarism of Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’, the poem he wrote more than a century ago. If you’ve never read it, I suggest you download it. And you’ll be glad you did. It’s widely considered one of the great treasures in American literature.

In my defense, I was wasn’t exactly stealing from Mr. Frost; that poem slipped into the public domain on January 1st, 2019 (I checked).  I wanted my version to serve as a lead-in to a little problem I seem to be sometimes having remembering things.  Not a major problem, you understand.  I remembered to write that last sentence, and I still manage to recall that my morning newspaper is now in an electronic tablet and not on the front porch.

But I do, as I alluded to in the first stanza, forget who said things I want to quote when I’m writing. I don’t have trouble with “To be on not to be” (I taught Hamlet to four classes a year for decades and surely should be able to hang on to that one) and “The Lord is my shepherd” is no problem since the speaker is the first two words. But when sources of quotes is the topic on ‘Jeopardy’ I’m usually too slow to come up with the answer to win any money if I were actually a contestant.

I’ve never been good at remembering peoples’ names. Which makes for some awkward moments when introductions are expected and when people whose names I can’t remember ask me to inscribe something I’ve written.  When I was still teaching school, I always had a seating chart close by so if a student raised a hand I could acknowledge the person attached to it by name.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not to the point of putting Post-it notes on things like the coffeemaker, television set and commode to remind me what they do. I know where I’m going when I drive and how to get home again.  But I would like to remember some things more quickly than I sometimes do.  I’m tired of having to mentally trot though the entire alphabet to come up with some long dead actor’s name in an old movie I’m watching.

You might be thinking about now that I should be taking one of the memory enhancing pills that are constantly hawked in television ads. And maybe you’re right.  But I guess I’m too stubborn to think I’m there yet.

In all seriousness I do worry sometimes about losing my memory, and not just little pieces of it. I watched my father lose his battle with Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a cruel affliction, as much and sometimes more so for family and loved ones than the person going through it. Several of my uncles and aunts had it as well.

So I might be on the firing line.  

But I take comfort in something a neurologist once told me when I was doing research on Alzheimer’s for a book I was writing about my dad. I’d told him I’d begun being concerned when I’d lose my car keys or when forgetting to do something that needed doing or what I’d driven to a grocery store to buy.

He said that everybody forgets things like that, and that when they happen occasionally it’s no cause for worry. “Losing your car keys is normal” he told me. “But when you’re holding them in your hand and you don’t know what they are, then you’ve got a problem.”

I remember thanking him for that distinction. Still, in an attempt to keep my mind active, I sometimes recite the American presidents or Shakespeare’s tragedies in order on my morning walk.  I work the Word Jumbles and crossword puzzles. And I still watch ‘Jeopardy’ to try to jump start my memory.

When I remember to, that is.

One thought on “On the Firing Line 

  1. Amen and Again Amen to the memory “issue” in “One Writer’s Dilemma”!!!  These days I try to think of this issue as one of the perks of a long life well-lived:):):):) Love your posts, even I don’t always comment.Cheers,Dana


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