Tag Archives: John Barrymore

MEMORY DOORS

In front of a house in Colorado Springs.  Open the door and take a book or leave a book to share. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

In front of a house in Colorado Springs. Open the door and take a book or leave a book to share. (All pictures by Marylin Warner)

 

Inviting doorway into the children's room of an quaint shop in Abilene, Kansas. Walk through the doorway for exciting new ideas.

Inviting doorway into the children’s room of an quaint shop in Abilene, Kansas. Walk through the doorway for exciting new ideas.

Actor John Barrymore once wrote, “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.”  Sometimes, however, doors can cause less pleasant results.  According to both Professor Gabriel Radvansky and an article in the QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY, doors and doorways can separate episodes of activity and cause confusion and forgetfulness. 

What this means is that all of us, whether we have mostly clear thoughts or worry that we might be next to suffer with Alzheimer’s or dementia, probably find ourselves forgetting things.

For instance, have you ever hurried out the door in the morning, and suddenly you can’t remember the two things on your “to do” list you planned to take care of on your way to work?  Or do you sometimes walk from one room to another to get something, and once you get there you’ve forgotten what it is?

There are several studies on event boundaries, but here’s my favorite solution to this kind of forgetfulness problem:  go back through the door to the place you were when you made the plan about what to do or to get. Stop, take a breath, and when you recall the detail, repeat it to yourself, and then walk back through the door and go on your way.  Do this with a sense of humor, not an exaggerated sense of dread that you might be losing your memory.

I did not know of memory event boundaries when my dad was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but I realize now that it was one of his coping skills.  Sometimes he would walk out of his office to put on his hat and go somewhere, then suddenly stop. He’d look away, hesitant, and then he’d go back into his office. This might have been to escape the embarrassment of forgetting, but often after a brief pause, he would walk back out of his office again, smiling and ready to do what he’d planned. By going back through the doorway, he had remembered what he wanted to do.

If you haven’t visited www.fatbottomfiftiesgetfierce.com yet, I suggest you treat yourself to a terrific blog. One humorous post is about “Quinbloits”—things that only someone over 50 will understand.   My favorite Quinbloit is this: ROOMEMBER: to find yourself standing in the middle of a room trying to remember what you went in there to get. There you have it: if you suffer from a ROOMEMBER, now you know to leave the room to help yourself remember.

As the daughter of a father who died of Alzheimer’s and a mother who suffers with severe dementia, I would never make light of any aspect of forgetfulness or memory loss.  But I also don’t want to cause undue worries by dwelling on natural lapses of memory.  As my primary care physician explained to me, finding your keys where you left them in the refrigerator doesn’t mean you should worry you have Alzheimer’s. But if you find your keys in the refrigerator and don’t know what they are or what to do with them, then we need to talk.

Close up of main door of burnt out building in picture below. Going in and out of this door may bring back memories of a better time before the fire.

Close up of main door of burnt out building in picture below. Going in and out of this door may bring back memories of a better time before the fire, but it’s not a safe suggestion based on the damage from the fire.

 

View of burnt out doors and windows of church/theater in Abilene, Ks.

View of burnt out doors and windows of church/theater in Abilene, Ks.

 

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, life questions, special quotations

DOORS or WINDOWS?

Dear Mom,

In 1992, during an MTV town hall meeting in Washington, a 17-year-old student asked President Bill Clinton the question that stunned everyone: “Do you wear boxers or briefs?”

When we talked about it later, I remember you shaking your head, saying “Somebody’s mother needed to have a long, serious talk with her daughter.” Dad said that somebody needed to have a long, serious talk with Clinton for answering the question.

Occasionally we made a game of “either/or” questions. Not boxers or briefs, of course, but other debatable either/or  questions: Which sport takes more talent, baseball or basketball?  If you could read only one newspaper, would it be Wall Street Journal or Kansas City Star? If you could eat only one meat, would it be grilled steak or fried chicken? Which would be worse to lose, your hearing or your vision? On and on we went, challenging each other to pick or choose.

After Dad died, I was helping you decide what to do with his clothes: should we offer them to an unemployed man  who was about Dad’s size but might be offended, or should we box them up and donate them to Goodwill? It was only one of many decisions to make at a difficult time, and finally we just took a break and decided we didn’t have to do anything right then, at that moment. You sat in your recliner, looking out the big window of your living room.  Finally I asked, “If you could choose only one, would you choose a door or a window?”

Since that day, I’ve noticed what others say about doors and windows.  Horace Mann said: “A house without books is like a room without windows.”  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote: “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”

You were a big fan of Erma Bombeck, and you laughed at this quote: “Never have more children than you have car windows.” And you agreed strongly with Victor Hugo’s philosophy: “He who opens a school door, closes a prison,” and Coco Chanel’s  advice: “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.”

On the day I asked you which you would choose, a door or a window, you said, “It depends on the weather, I guess. And if I have some place to go, or if I want to watch the birds in the trees.”  That made sense, and after we talked for a while we got up and went to Dad’s closet to decide what to do with his things.

John Barrymore said, “Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” Mom, you’ve shown me that happiness sneaks in through windows, too, when you patiently sit and wait, expecting something pleasant to happen…outside your window, or inside, in your memories.

Thank you for being the stained-glass window that sparkles and shines when the sun is out, and when the darkness sets in your true beauty reveals the light from within you.

Love,  Marylin

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Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference