Biff America: Poor spelling and lost memories
“Elia, iits OK. I’m not afred, and I lfe you.”
That was a small part of a badly misspelled note I scratched on a legal pad while my wife, Ellie, was on the phone with the emergency room.
At the time I wrote that note, I was thinking that I had a tumor in my head or had a stroke. But the optimist in me was hoping for a third possibility.
(For those to whom I owe money, don’t worry. This was almost a decade ago, and I’m still on the preferred side of the dirt.)
An hour earlier, the camper was packed, and we were heading off for a month on our fall getaway. We’d been packing for a couple of days in between hiking, biking and meetings. Coincidentally, the day before, we had met with our lawyer to sign our wills. (PJ, I’m leaving you my knife collection, gambling debts and vintage “Beverly Hillbillies” lunchbox.)
We spent the morning tying up loose ends. I ran to the hardware store to buy some hose clamps and zip ties for our emergency repair kit, and after that, my friend Steve came over, and I helped him do a quick fix on his bike.
Finally, by midmorning, we were ready to go. About a half-mile from home, I panicked that I forgot to lock the front door, so I turned around to check. I pulled onto our street and drove past our house without stopping.
“What are you doing?“ Ellie asked with a little exasperation in her voice. ”You drove right past our house.“
I stopped, looked at her and said, “I can’t remember which house is ours.”
Ellie’s expression went from impatience to fear. She said, “Our house is the yellow one we just passed with all the political signs in the yard. Don’t you remember when that gal came over yesterday to put up a sign for your friend who is running for sheriff?”
When I asked, “What’s his name?” I saw the beginning of tears in my mate’s eyes.
She then began to quiz me about what I had done that morning. I could remember only as far back as turning the truck around to check if the house was locked.
Ellie wanted me to lie down on our couch, but I insisted on going up to my office because I wanted — I’m not kidding — to make sure I had put all my knives away in the old lunchbox I keep them in. Finding all was where it should be, I sat down and wrote Ellie a note.
There was a bunch of mushy stuff, and then I ended with, “We hav had lotta flun.”
The doctor who Ellie talked with suggested that she keep me calm and get me to the hospital fast.
While driving to the hospital, I made things worse for Ellie by repeatedly asking her where we were heading.
After thousands and thousands of dollars worth of tests, they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. After every test, the same doctor would come in, and I would introduce myself to her all over again. A funny thing was, though I couldn’t remember my phone number, I remembered watching that same doctor Nordic race while she was in high school. I told her as much every time she entered the room.
After a while, it was funny.
Turns out I had transient global amnesia. It is a condition where you temporarily lose your memory of recent events. Your brain takes a break for a few hours, then comes back more or less completely. It took me a few weeks to recall some stuff from that day, and Ellie told me the rest.
I spent a night in the hospital for observation, and we left on our trip the next morning. It has been almost 10 years with no recurrence. But just to be safe, I researched the suspected causes of that condition. They are stress, migraines, head trauma, immersion in cold water and sexual intercourse.
Just to be safe, I stopped hitting myself in the head with a phone book while taking an ice bath.
Jeffrey Bergeron’s column “Biff America” publishes Mondays in the Summit Daily News. Bergeron has worked in TV and radio for more than 30 years, and his column can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He is the author of “Mind, Body, Soul.” Bergeron arrived in Breckenridge when there was plenty of parking and no stop lights. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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