If you don't know what the acronym "CRS" means, ask anyone
over the age of about 50. They'll tell you - if they can remember!
I don't know if I inherited CRS from my equally-forgetful
mom or if it was environmental. But we definitely shared the trait.
Mom was 38 years old when I was born. With a two-generation
age difference, she was about the age of my friends' grandmothers.
bothered me - she was a terrific mother and we were very close - but I always
thought of her as "old" despite her lack of gray hair even in her 80s (no, she
never colored it).
Mom and I shared many traits, including the clumsiness I
wrote about in
Prep19. Another one is forgetfulness. We used to tease each
other about our inability to remember names or where we put things or things we
needed to do. We are/were both inveterate list-makers - if we didn't write it
down, it probably didn't get done.
For one of Mom's birthdays when she was in her 60s and I was in my 20s, I made her an elegant framed and matted counted cross-stitch picture
with the poem above. I knew she wouldn't be offended because she had a good
sense of humor and the ability to laugh at her foibles. I'm glad I inherited
those traits from her, too.
Soon after that she began a series of moves into smaller
and smaller residences within the retirement home she had chosen. Gradually she returned to me the
numerous needlework pieces I'd given her over the years because she simply had
no room to display them any more. But she kept this poem.
I think it was my brother, her primary caretaker, who retrieved it when it became clear that Mom
was probably in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. After all the years Mom
and I teased each
other about our absent-mindedness, it wasn't funny any more when she became
Mom died ten years ago at the age of 84. My siblings and I
had her autopsied, and discovered she did indeed have Alzheimer's Disease.
Nothing scares me more, not even cancer. If you catch most
kinds of cancer early enough, there is a cure. Not so for Alzheimer's. Despite
my athleticism, I can better handle the idea of growing old with a physical
disability than with a mind that no longer functions optimally.
I want to be the first in my family to live to the ripe age
of 100. Even though my maternal grandmother died only two months shy of 100, the
odds are that I won't live that long. I'm doing everything I can to stay
healthy mentally and physically so I don't die prematurely like my paternal
This includes physical exertion. I'm by far the most
athletic person in my (small remaining) family. Am I trying to run from an early
If you're a Baby Boomer like Jim and me, think back to when
you were a teenager or in your twenties. What were your impressions of people in
their 50s and 60s? They seemed really OLD, didn't they?
Fifty-six used to sound old to me. Heck, it STILL sounds
old to me!!
I think Jim and I are pretty typical Boomers who act and
feel a lot younger than our parents did when they were our age. We're definitely resisting the
concept of " middle
Oh, there are days when we feel our 56 years. We
can't run as fast as we used to, it takes longer to recover before the next hard
run or race, our joints are stiffer from developing osteoarthritis. I won't even begin to talk about the effects of
menopapuse, for fear of losing any remaining male readers!
And our memories are a bit less sharp. "Tell me again why
we're taking ginkgo biloba, dear?"
But we still like to think of ourselves as 35-year-old
athletes. How did those last 21 years go by so quickly?? Warp speed, I
We're a bit schizo about age, having young minds trapped in
aging bodies. To illustrate our confusion, consider that two of our favorite
comics are "Zits" (a teenager) and "Pickles" (a couple of "senior citizens"). I
mean, we identify with BOTH cartoons. How schizo is that??
RUNNING AS PLAY
When I'm running, most of the time I do feel younger
than I am. In fact, I revert to an impulsive 10-year-old when I'm running
in the rain and mud. Why be glum when the trail's a mess
and tippy-toe around the edges of puddles in a futile attempt to keep your feet
dry? You're probably just gonna get to more and bigger puddles that you can't
avoid and get all wet or muddy anyway!
Why not just stomp through those puddles and see how high
you can make the water splash? Why not just have fun slipping and sliding around
in the mud, and worry about the clean-up later?
(Some days I swear it takes us as long to clean
ourselves, the dogs, our clothes and shoes, and the van - as it did to run!)
Even though running is often play to me, a la George
Sheehan, I know full well I'm not 10 or even 35 any more. The fact remains that
I'm a middle-aged woman whose CRS is getting worse. Names, especially, elude me.
But I have a solution and it's related to running and this trek.
UTILIZE THOSE ENDORPHINS!
It's a well-known phenomenon that runners often come up
with solutions to problems or other great ideas when they're running. It's tied
in with the endorphin high, letting the mind free-flow. It works for
both the left and right sides of the brain, too. Some people find the creative
sides of their brains go into overdrive. Others can solve complicated math
problems that eluded them earlier.
That often happens to me when I'm running in the woods.
I'll think of the answer to something I've been pondering, for example, and it's
like puzzle pieces that suddenly fit perfectly together. Those "ah-ha" moments
are to be cherished.
But remembering them when I'm done is a different matter!
By the time I get back to the car - or back home - the brilliant thought, the
perfect phrase is POOF! gone. Occasionally it comes back, but often it never
does. That's incredibly frustrating to me.
I've experienced that since I began running 25 years ago.
When I'd want to write a race report, for example, I'd think of all sorts of witty or eloquent or descriptive things to
write about my experience, but they'd be gone as quickly as they bubbled up in my
brain while I was running.
One solution used by some folks is taking a tape
recorder on their runs. That's over-kill for my purposes, too much to carry on
this trek, and would only encourage me to talk to myself more than I already do
when I'm running!
TAKE NOTE OF THIS, PLEASE
My solution is simpler, and probably one that other forgetful readers of this journal
have already employed: keep a little notebook handy when you're
running so you can write down
your thoughts right away before the synapses disconnect in your brain.
I've often thought about doing this after a good
brain-storming run, and I included it in my list of gear and supplies in an earlier prep page,
but it wasn't until recently that I finally employed the method.
I got a tiny 25-cent spiral-bound notebook to use during my AT Adventure Run
and I've already started practicing.
So far, I've used it to describe wildflowers I've seen blooming along the trail (if I didn't have my
camera with me), to write down the names of a couple people I've met, and to
record thoughts to incorporate into this journal.
But anything new takes time to become habitual.
I had the notebook and pen with
me Saturday when I was doing an "elevation" session on the Andy Layne Trail and
up to Tinker Cliffs** on the Appalachian Trail (up and down twice for a total of
about 7,000 feet elevation change in fourteen miles).
My first trip up, I met local ultra runner Neal Jamison
going the opposite way with three friends I hadn't met before. If I'd written
down their names as soon as we got done chatting, I would have listed them here
- but I forgot to get the notebook out and record them!!! Before they were out
of sight, I'd already forgotten all three names.*** <sigh>
On the adventure run, the notebook will come in handy as
long as I remember to use it!
* OK, this is what CRS means: Can't Remember Squat" (or your favorite "S" word)
** Historical note re: Tinker Cliffs
Since Jim and I are history buffs, I'll occasionally
include a bit of history about places along the Appalachian Trail that I think
might interest readers.
According to the AT Trail Guide to Central Virginia,
Tinker Mountain was named for the legend that a number of deserters from the
Revolutionary War hid here, making pots and pans - hence they were called
*** Neal kindly reminded me after reading this entry that
his friends' names are Alison Steele, Steve Kerr, and a fella named Jay.