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A lapse of memory is always forgotten

I have planned this column for a couple of weeks now, ever since my colleague Stephen Nohlgren wrote a feature story for the Floridian section of the Times that ran with the headline "Am I losing it?"

But I only remembered today that I had planned that.

Strange how many copies of that section wound up on my desk during the week following publication of the story.

My memory and lack thereof is reaching legendary proportions.

I can tell you details of a murder that occurred on March 19, 1974, just south of Zephyrhills. I can tell you the names of the victims and the names of at least two witnesses.

The problem is, I will probably tell you all of that while I am looking for my car keys, or my glasses, or both, in a dead rush to get to an appointment that I forgot was on my calendar.

And it's getting worse.

A quick point here, I do not find humorous the loss of memory due to Alzheimer's disease or other disease or injuries.

And I was relieved, I'll admit, when the results of the quick memory test offered along with the story showed my memory loss to be within normal range and not of medical concern.

But it is funny sometimes.

Since I began taking an anti-cholesterol drug that has had memory problems attributed to it but not scientifically proven to be caused by it, I have noticed a further decrease in memory.

And, remember, we are talking about the guy who keeps a (very) long list of habitually forgotten items like the names of movie stars and third-grade classmates. And we're talking about the guy who found the list humorous a couple of years ago and began to write a column about it and then realized the column was coming as easily as if he had written it before, and was humiliated to learn that he had.

And it isn't getting any better.

Now things that I know, like the make of my truck or the name of a street, disappear for just about two seconds _ just long enough to make me sound like a gibbering idiot while I speak to a parking lot attendant or try to give a stranger directions.

One day I forgot the name of the old courthouse, a central landmark in Dade City, and wound up referring to it as the "big, red brick building."

The syndrome also really makes itself evident when I speak publicly, because I usually speak extemporaneously. I am rapidly learning that "off the cuff" is a lot harder when the cuff is wrinkled and frayed.

For the time being, I'm getting around it by being unspecific, giving as little factual information as possible and reverting to a blank stare when I don't know what I'm talking about _ you know, sort of like a presidential candidate.

It's either that or I'm off the anti-cholesterol drug and back on the Egg Beaters and I have a vacation full of high-fat Dutch food coming up.

And, disease-related or not, I'm pretty sure that my memory problems are, in part, due to age, so I'm trying to adjust to them, gracefully, as I did when my hearing started to go and I realized that there really weren't all that many things I wanted to hear anyhow.

I greet female friends by saying, "Hi, Lady," unless they are feminists and apt to be insulted by that and will respond better to the generic, "Hi, how are you."

Male friends are "buddy," and kids, who are used to adults talking stupidly, are always "young man," "young lady" or "scout."

The hard part comes when I have to introduce two people to each other and can't remember the name of one or both of them.

And, trust me, the old, "I've forgotten how to pronounce your name" trick never works. It's always someone with a name like Ted or Mary.

But there's still a silver lining. I've learned that I can conceal both hearing and memory losses by keeping my mouth shut.

Now there's an idea I wish I had happened on a lot sooner.