Several Sundays ago, I was walking home from church and thinking about how I would spend the rest of the day. The afternoon seemed more wide open than I had anticipated. Suddenly I realized why: I was supposed to be at a church leadership team meeting. I had looked at my calendar several times during the week so I had known it was coming. I’d even remembered it during the morning service. Nevertheless, I’d forgotten. I walked back quickly and was only a little late.
Part of our agenda was for each of us to report whether we wanted to stay on the team another year. Kent asked me whether I thought my cognitive impairment would interfere with my work. I told him the impairment had been almost stable for a year. Later, I worried that Kent’s own judgment was that I should leave the team because my memory was so bad. I asked him.
He agreed it was obvious that I had memory problems, but my awareness of my impairment made it a non-issue for the team. He encouraged me to stay on.
Our church meets in a room that is used by others during the week. Someone has to arrive early, get the chairs out, and set up for the service. A small group of us takes the fourth Sunday of the month, so this past Sunday was our turn. I’ve done this every month for several years. I have it in my calendar as a regular task. Nevertheless, I forgot completely. Even when I got to the service and said hello to Maria, the person in charge of our setting up, I didn’t remember. It was only half way through the service when I wondered why Maria (who ordinarily leads worship on our set-up Sunday) was leading today that I realized I’d forgotten.
I apologized to Maria after the service, of course, and she was as gracious as always. It was more than graciousness, though. Like Kent, Maria knows me well. She’s been with me through the ups and downs of this long struggle. We both know that we can’t count on my memory. I do my best, and she knows it. When I screw up, we both know what’s happening, so there’s easy forgiveness on her side and little embarrassment on my side. I am grateful.
Over the past year, my memory impairment may have gotten a little worse, but my episodes of confusion are considerably less severe than they were. One of the big changes is that I’m no longer having those episodes that anyone would recognize as impairment. Rather, as with the two stories above, people to whom I describe them are more likely to respond that they could happen to anybody. I’ve written before about the difference.
The slightly worsening memory could even be the influence of aging. So it seems I’m recovering a little. I tend to see the gifts of my decline more than the limitations. It’s an interesting space I inhabit. Impaired, forgiven, loved and included. The future is, as it always is, unknowable, but I’m as content as at any time in my life.