I got a lesson a while ago about the importance of memory. As long as memory function remains intact, we’re hardly aware of it. It just performs little miracles in the background, soundlessly and without any attention, like a million computer calculations guiding a missile to Mars. When memory fails, however, there’s lots of sputtering.
A family member – a gentleman of 80 with short-term memory loss - was asked if he wanted a new screen door. His condo association had just put new siding on the buildings and offered a very nice Anderson screen/storm door at a discount price for owners who wanted one. It was a good deal, but the person in question was a child of the Great Depression, who rarely spends money that isn’t absolutely necessary.
So here are the questions he had to ask himself in deciding about a new screen door:
Do I really need one?
What’s wrong with the old one?
Wouldn’t the old one last a few more years?
Do I care how it looks? (Clearly not)
How much would it cost?
Can I afford it? (We knew he could, but he wasn’t sure.)
Well, how much is my social security check? (That much? Where do they get that kind of money?)
How would I get it?
Who would put it up for me?
What if I didn’t like it? Could I send it back?
If I sent it back, how would I get the old one back up?
Would I need a new handle? Is that included?
How do I know it’s a good deal? (You can’t believe everything they tell you…)
What’s wrong with the old door?
Wouldn’t it last a few more years?
What were we talking about?
Isn’t it time for the Tigers game?
Without a good memory, it’s impossible to remember how old the old door is, how much things cost, how much money you have, what your usual expenses are, or how the management of a condo association works. By the time you get to the end of that line of questioning, you’ve forgotten the answers to the earlier questions, so you have to start all over again.
Or watch the Tigers game.
We all opted for the game, and someone ordered the door for him later. It was a much better idea than the circular discussion about the door. But I left the conversation with a new appreciation of how important memory is when it comes to making decisions. When your on-board computer stops working, you’re probably not going to make it to Mars.