The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

February 6, 2013

Use it or lose it

By Jason O'Boyd, Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 6, 2013 — I been trying to remind myself to write a column about how bad my memory is. But I kept forgetting to do it.

To say that I have a bad memory is an understatement. I’d try to compare how bad my memory is with someone famous who had the same problem. I know some celebrity or politician has certainly had some sort of “I don’t recall” moment that made them look foolish in the process.

But, here again, I can’t seem to recall myself.

When I come home from work, I always have a pocket full of notes I’ve written to myself. I’ll jot something down, put it in my pocket and forget the thought or the fact I even put the note in my pocket moments later.

Then, when I empty my pockets and read the notes, memories, ideas and thoughts from the day just seem to rush from my brain. However, if I don’t act quickly or at least put all the notes down onto one sheet of paper, I’ll forget them all together.

I’m “only” 42, so I don’t think I’ve got a case of Alzheimer’s settling in. I was this way when I was 16 years old. It’s been so much a part of my life that I forget sometimes that … well, I’m forgetful.

I recall an episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” a cartoon television show on Nickeloden (Gee … I forgot how much I loved that show). In it, SpongeBob was told he really had to remember something. Cut to a scene inside his brain where little SpongeBobs are dumping cabinet files full of information and burning them with reckless abandon just so he can remember that one important thing. But, in the process, he forgets other much more important things.

That’s my brain on a constant basis. And it’s not just a quick, controlled burn. It’s more like a peat fire in the woods that never really goes out. It just smolders and continues to burn slowly.

I have to remind myself to tell people that I use a digital recorder to record any interview because I’m forgetful.

This year, I forgot my parents’ birthday. It’s not hard to remember because my dad’s birthday is Jan. 2, the day after New Year’s. You’d think I’d remember that since my birthday is Dec. 26, the day after Christmas. My mom’s birthday is basically a week later, on Jan. 10.

But it wasn’t until I called them on Friday during my weekly phone conversation that my mom reminded me that “someone recently had a birthday.”

If I were driving at the time, I’d probably have run off the road and hit a ditch in embarrassment. Nothing like having your mom, the person who carried you to full term before you were born, to remind you that you forgot not only her birthday, but your dad’s, too.

Birthdays are supposed to be easy for me to remember. My wife’s is a week before Valentine’s Day. My oldest sister’s is two days after my parents’ anniversary, in March. My youngest sister and one of my two nephews have a birthday a day apart in August, the 11th and 12th. I can’t remember which one is which, so I make a point to send a card to both.

My other nephew has a birthday on April 22. I remember it only because 11x2 is 22, the 11 in reference to either my sister or my oldest nephew. Again, I fail to recall.

We’ve all heard the phrase about how we only use 10 percent of our brain. Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying something like that (I don’t remember his exact words). has a story that basically debunks that theory.

It says we have 100 billion neurons that fill the brain, in addition to other types of cells that control everyday things we do. Damaging just one small part of the brain could greatly affect how you do things such as speaking. Brain scans have also proven that the brain is constantly functioning and that the only way part of it would not be working is if it were damaged.

And here I was all excited that, maybe, I could somehow untap the remaining 90 percent to help myself out.

I certainly don’t think I’ve ever had any kind of head injury that has caused me to be this way. Though if I did, I certainly don’t remember it. And, if someone told me I did, I likely forgot it.

So my wife will have to continue to remind me of things she told me about a couple of days ago. I’ll continue to keep the paper and pen companies in business by my constant note-taking, and I’ll definitely continue to give people reasons to believe I’m slowly losing my mind.

But hey, I don’t consider my lack of memory necessarily a bad thing. It’s not like I have to remind myself to breathe. I haven’t forgotten how to walk and chew gum at the same time, I certainly haven’t forgotten how to eat and it’s not like I’ve ever locked myself out of my own house.

Oh wait … I have done that. Three times. In about six months. I forgot about that.

Now … what were we talking about?