On long car trips, my wife and I play a memory game called “In My Grandmother’s Attic.” If you’re not familiar with this game, it goes like this: The person to start the game says, “In my grandmother’s attic I found a …” and that person must name something that starts with the letter “A,” like “apple.” The second person repeats what the first person says, then names something they found in Grandmother’s attic that starts with the letter “B,” like “basket.” And on and on through the entire alphabet.

Obviously, the game gets harder as you progress through the alphabet. Not to mention, the letters “X” and “Z” are always challenging. This car game is popular with our grandkids, who pick it up right away and have tremendous memories, unlike their aging counterparts. We sometimes choose simple themes when we play with them, like Maine or farm animals. When my wife and I play alone we get more creative, once playing a rousing x-rated version: “The letter ‘P’ … hmm.” Well, you get the idea.

Memory and aging have a tricky relationship, a shifting battle of wax and wane, with aging tending to be the ultimate victor. Take TV viewing, for instance. My wife and I will be watching a favorite TV show and a commercial for some brain-enhancing product, like Prevagen, will come on. I’ll comment, wondering aloud if this stuff really works, and when the TV ad is over my wife will ask me “What was the name of that product?” and I’ll have to admit I’ve already forgotten.

An older person’s favorite acronym is CRS, for “Can’t Remember Stuff.” We use it all the time. It gets a laugh, but it’s always one of those awkward, uncomfortable laughs that barely disguises our growing fear of losing our marbles.

One of the reasons I like writing is that if I can’t find the exact word I want, or can’t remember what I was writing about in the first place, I can always walk away from my desk and come back when my mind is clearer (having downed two cups of strong coffee or taken a half-hour nap or both).

An old TV ad used to tell us that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” It’s also a terrible thing to lose, like your socks in the washing machine or your eyeglasses that have been on your head the entire time. We older folks are a generation of searchers, always looking for something that’s just out of reach, mentally or physically.

Both my father and my wife’s father died from dementia, which stole their minds and their memories. Linda’s dad couldn’t remember how to get home from a short trip, and my father forgot family members’ names.

So, we carry on, doing all we can to preserve as many precious brain cells as possible – reading a lot, doing crossword puzzles and playing memory games like “In My Grandmother’s Attic.”

“In my grandmother’s attic I found an anteater and … a bottle of Prevagen!”

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