I did my regular check-in with the neurologist to see how I was doing and to get my prescription refilled. The medication is great - holds off the mysathenia 95%, and that remaining 5% is way way over to the right, a part of my vision field I don't much use.
He did a cursory examination - had me Follow The Finger, poked at inflated cheeks to try to deflate them, tried to pry open squinched-shut eyes, had me press upwards against his hands, took his Maxwell's little silver hammer to my knees - and agreed that all was going well - no other muscle weakness.
So ... while I had the attention of a neurologist, I asked about possible impending Alzheimers. "Why do you ask?" Well, I am taking yoga lessons, but in a chair because I'm leery about twisting my artificial knee into a semi-lotus, and I thought I'd phone the orthopedic surgeon's office for an official opinion... and couldn't remember his name. Only that it was Portuguese (he was from Brazil). How many Portuguese names do I know? (None at the moment.) (It's Pereira - I looked it up.)
Neurologist suggested that since the knee was a done deal (nearly a year now, and last time I saw the surgeon was six months ago) that it was natural not to have his name handy. I said I had no trouble remember HIS name - South African, wasn't it. Funny, you don't have a S.A. accent. He responded that he had a very strong S.A. accent. I heard a strong accent but, I said, not at all like a South African I used to work in the same office as - and I remembered his name, no prob. [Also Afrikaans name.] [Come to think of it, the guide on one of my Euro tours was from S.A., also w. a Dutch name, and he had yet another accent... jeez.]
And then, with the surgeon's name a blank, I tried to recollect two place names that I keep forgetting, to see if they'd escaped again - places that I drove through many times, places of no significance beyond being bathroom/coffee stops and markers on my journeys. But, maddeningly, the names kept losing themselves in the memory hole. One then came back... Hawkesbury. Fine, I said to myself, for the future I'll picture a hawk circling a town... And then I remembered that I'd used that mnenomic before, and had forgotten IT. (The other place is Kaladar, and I can't think of a mnenomic for it... maybe ka-ka, la-la, DAR. If I can remember that.)
Of course these names are totally irrelevant to my life. I'll never drive thru those towns again, and even if I did I know the way if not the name. But it's unsettling. I'd read, I told the neurologist, that names were the first thing to go.
He asked if I had trouble remembering recent conversations. We got into a bit of a discussion (or I got into a bit of a thing) about how it doesn't do, really, to look at some of this stuff too closely - like how by the middle of a book who can remember all the details at the beginning, and yet you keep on reading and it's all good. A lot of life is like that - a lot of vanishing detail... What did I have for breakfast three days ago, and what else did I do...
So he said he'd give me a test. Which only someone really far gone would have trouble with. "Here's five words, repeat after me, now I'll ask you again in a couple of minutes." I still remember them - face, church, velvet, daisy, red. I'll probably remember them on my death bed (while still fretting because I've forgotten Hawkesbury and Kaladar again, and the Brazilian surgeon's name). Neur. said he'd say some numbers and could I repeat them backwards. Numbers have always been meaningless blips to me (I used to have a hard time taking down phone numbers at work, for instance - a meaningless sequence of abstract thingees) and that worried me, but these were 3-digit numbers, even I could do that. Had me copy a drawing of a 3-D cube - no prob of course. Identify these four animals - hah, African animals all, lion rhino camel giraffe. Good, he said - some people mistake the rhino for a hippo. I said that would only indicate a lack of familiarity with African animals.
Anyway, he said I was okay, certain amount of forgetfulness normal as we age, not to worry. I said, "Those white spots on the brain, I suppose."(I'd had some alarm when on a previous visit he'd discussed the [essentially nil] results of an MRI.)
Hopefully only coincidentally he said he was closing his office and I could get future prescription refills from my GP or some other neurologist.... (His excuse was that the hospital needed a full-time neurologist...)
I discussed with my daughter, who'd been waiting in the car. She is, of course, a generation younger. She said she forgot names too. Also, shared one of my other complaints, that sometimes there's just THE word I need, no substitutes need apply, but it's elusive, can almost grasp it and wrestle it into the sentence, but not quite...
So I guess all is well.
Then we went to a store and when it came time to pay for an instant I couldn't remember my PIN.