Thursday, June 3, 2010

Short Term

Short Term

The short-term memory (even the normal short-memory), works two ways, almost as if by intent.

Annoying thoughts that a stroke-patient doesn’t yet need tend to occur abruptly, and then disappear just when he/she has found a use for them.

It is really more disconcerting than the more obvious changes, like being unable to use a right arm, or kick a person when he’s down, or enunciate, “illogical,” which I now and then do, but with unpredictable success. (I don’t think I’ve kicked anybody, but I don’t recall using my right arm, either.).

Non-stroke men and woman of a surprisingly early age swear to me that this phenomenon happens to them, too, this short term memory hiccough, but I am skeptical.

Maybe it happens to them once a week. Maybe three times a week, tops. I am inclined to believe that more frequency than that would have made all conversations cease long ago.

To begin with, it happens to me whenever I want to say, “Hello,” to someone. I remember the person’s name when I have started the, “Hell…” but because I have this fixation with saying “l’s,” correctly, I’ve forgotten the name by the time I get to the, “lo!”

So: “Hel…lo (…Frammis…Punch Bottbully…Whatever.).”

Multi-tasking evidently is the first to go in a stroke, anyway. I remember experiencing it early on, though I didn’t know what it was, yet.

Well, I didn’t know what anything was.

I think I first noticed that I could not talk while walking. There probably were other examples, but none so graphic as to make me fall down. The subject of the conversation would change, real quick. So, I would get lost, trying to remember something nobody now had any use for, because a man had fallen down.

It stands to reason, now, when I think of it, which I damn well better do, or draw unwanted attention to myself.

I had to move both my legs, balance a dead half-body, watch that curb, be aware of the pothole at the top of the hill, be careful of the car door, all without falling, and somebody wanted to know what I thought of the dark-haired skinny kid we saw in, “Rent,” in Northport. Could they be kidding me? Was there ever a time when I could do all that?

Then, first names: Generally speaking, I now begin to remember a man’s first name when that person says, “Hello, how are you? You look good. Really.” Then, I’m on: and the name disappears.

“Yes,” I manage to get out. And he walks off.

“That was Tom,” I think to myself, late. “Oh. This is Tom’s wife, Hilde...”

“Tom,” the man whose name I’ve triumphantly trapped, is fetching a beer, no doubt. While my mouth is still formulating, “Tom,” my brain promptly whisks, “Hildle,” away because it is pushing, “Tom,” away. But I am looking at a fabulously familiar face and say to Tom’s wife, Hildegarde, “Hi, Bruce!”

“Bruce?” We look at each other.

“Yeah, I don’t know where that came from. I was thinking of Tom, your husband.”

She’s gone by the time I get that out, so, I don’t know whether I got it out. It could still be trapped in my imagination.

Or, when I refer to a specific person, whose name begins to slip out the back as soon as I think of him; or, when I make an aside comment about a guy, that, worse, would be enchantingly funny, if I had remembered the name; or, when I use one as a backup example, saying something like, “I’m not kidding. Just talk to…oh, hell, he was there… (uh…blank…BLANK)…my…(…blank). He was there!”

I sound as if nobody I know actually was there, or where there was, and people are trying to spare me from embarrassing myself, now, by leaving.

(My mind takes on a defensive mind of its own, again, imagining: “Maybe you think I wasn’t there because I can’t remember—that guy’s name I was talking about—but I’ll tell you, he’ll tell you: I was there!”).

Nobody is listening, because why would they?

It happens alone, too.

Suddenly, I couldn’t get the name, “Stephanie,” out of my head. I knew its origin, which was an improvement, over all, but I didn’t need it then. I didn’t need it all through April or May. Why does it insist on being at the forefront of my thoughts now, in June?

I was trying to dial a number to get another number for a haircutter named, “Dawn,” when the name, “Stephanie,” danced across the stage of my brain. It cut in front of, “Dawn,” and threatened to make, “Dawn,” disappear.

“Stephanie,” was the name of the woman who for the last two years has cut my hair. I knew for some reason that Stephanie was unavailable. Why would she, now, be elbowing Dawn out of my mind.

I would say, “Typical for, ‘Stephanie,’ to do that when she isn’t around.”

But she has nothing to do with it. Neither did Dawn. Neither one even knows about it. My brain is doing it; my brain is having a ball doing it. My brain is getting back at me for whatever I did that I don’t remember.

The Free 411phone service was just about to come on, for the seventh time, after the unrelenting Optimum Online commercial, which was getting real old. I was to say, “Residence,” then wait, then say, “Meville, New York,” then say, “Brad Hores” (and not, Dawn O’Keefe Hores, the person I wanted to speak to. I really like Brad, but I don’t want him going near my hair with anything sharp. Or, for that matter, any of his colleague firefighters and their sharp things.).

Anyway, the name Stephanie barged in, took the names, “Dawn,” and, “Brad,” out, and trashed the name, “Melville,” which didn’t matter because the computer didn’t get the long, arduously rehearsed, enunciated rendition of, “Melville,” anyway. And I hung up, again.

My phone rang. I didn’t even know what to do. I started punching it, pressing button after button, until I heard, “Ed? Ed?” In my ear.

I looked at the phone, remembering (suddenly) that I had a blue tooth in my ear (!). I said, “Hello?” to no instrument, to nobody I could see. “Hello?”

“Ed? Ed? This is Dawn. How are you?”

I don’t what kept me from sobbing.


  1. post script: Dawn came over and gave me a haircut. I probably should have mentioned that.

  2. You have not lost your touch my friend. Not one synapse of it.


  3. You've got a great brain, buddy. Perhaps, it's a little mis-behaving now and again, but it makes me smile. That's a gift!

  4. Oh, Ed...where have all the ...what were they? flowers?...gone? Sorry, I know that is long term memory, but your post made me think of days ago. Yes--you are still the Ed Lowe I remember! Maybe a bit buried in the wrapping that confounds your brain after a stroke. But you are Ed!

    I haven't had much time to email you but will this week. I'm on a book tour right now and amazed I am actually alive. When I said heart-to-heart it's because we are in a similar club. The heart-disease-stroke-sucked-the-life-out-of-me club.

    July 14, 2010 is 5 years since I had a HEART TRANSPLANT after like I don't know--50 operations? Being dead a few times, having experiments done to keep me alive, and getting a heart that was going to be trashed it was so bad--yeah the transplanted one in my chest. So WE have a lot of common HEART ties--strokes and heart disease go hand in hand.

    I am off soon to be out of town a few days but lets write more...and you can check out my website at

    So glad you are still KICKING like only a NY'er can! I tell people I am still alive cause it is too hard to kill of NY'ers!

    LOVE YOU ED! 8^) Cindy

  5. Holy smoke. Ya know, I leave you alone for few decades, and what you do. A heart transplant. Typical. (Wow. I am impressed by the way. It certainly puts into perpective that two-column tale about the car. I wrote the headlines in the book: "Cindy Scinto's Car Story," and, "Cindy Scinto's Other Car Story." Wonder how many people remember that. With titles like that? Must be six, I bet.). Write again. Write often. edlowe

  6. Like the credit card commercials.. you.. are "Priceless"..
    Thank you for this great gift of yours, of sharing not only YOUR life..
    but the lives of this precious lady with the new, improved heart. :)
    God Bless you, Cindy.. and of course.. that goes without saying to YOU, edlowe*
    My best to "Herself", Susan* :)
    love ya*g :)