The Duncan Banner

March 24, 2013

My g-g-generation mirrors ‘Absent-Minded Professor’

Jeff Kaley
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — Remember the movie The Absent-Minded Professor? No, not the funky Flubber flick from 1997 that starred Robin Williams. I’m talking about the original 1961 Disney classic starring Fred McMurray, Keenan Wynn and Tommy Kirk.

(Let me pause to give myself some props for remembering some of the stars of the original movie, although I had to look up the date the flick was released.)

Anyway, as played by McMurray, memory-challenged professor Ned Brainard was an endearing, lovable  character, who mismatched socks and kept forgetting when and where he was supposed to tie the knot with girlfriend Betsy.

We laughed at Prof. Brainard, but there was a certain amount of respect in our chuckles, since we figured his brain was bursting with important, professor-type stuff that made him oblivious to the world around him.

As Baby Boomers race into senior citizenship, we’re also having a teeny memory problem; like, there’s a reason I went to the kitchen, but after making that 10-second walk, I can’t remember my mission. It’s sure to come to me, though.

As I recall, the scientific name for this is “short-term memory loss.” More and more Boomers are stricken with the malady, and as usual, we’re starting a trend.

Our parents and grandparents had “senior moments” that usually struck when they were 60 to 70. But impatient as always, Boomers have fast-forwarded the memory loss process so it hits at 45 to 55 and we call it a “middle-aged moment.”

As time passes, Boomers have gotten competitive with our memory loss experiences. We try to top each other with tales of how frequently we forget things and how unique those forgotten things might be. We have conversations like this:

Female Boomer: “I went to Wally World the other day, and so I wouldn’t lock my car keys in the ignition, I put them in my purse. Then I forgot my purse and locked it in the car.”

Male Boomer: “Small potatoes. I got up this morning and was halfway to work, when I discovered I’d forgotten to put on my pants.”

And then there’s the name deal.

People of all ages have problems remembering names, often the names of people they’ve just met or associate with infrequently. But Boomers are discovering the joy of being unable to recall the name of “that girl” who’s been married to their son for the last 14 years!

Oh, we can remember, we just can’t think of it at the moment.

Being resourceful types, Boomers are creating little techniques to help us cope with, uh, whatever the malady is I’m talking about.

Some Boomers, harkening back to the ’60s and ’70s, take the chemical route by gobbling B vitamins, calcium channel blockers, estrogen and neotropin. Naturalists, like myself, make sure there are pads of sticky notes within arm’s reach everywhere we go.

Techno-inclined Boomers rely on computer programs that pop up messages at precise times, reminding them to do something, like take a pill. The only problem is: 30 seconds after the computer reminder disappears, they remember seeing the message, but can’t recall if they actually took the pill.

The more I ponder this memory thing, the more I believe the problem is this: Boomers have too much in our brains. We’ve become Ned Brainard. Our cranium may not be packed with quantum physics or the exact dates of the reign of Tiberius, but we have an overload of stuff in there.

Since we started appearing in 1946, Boomers have been processing info in volumes and at speeds unknown to previous generations.

In addition to what was crammed in our heads by the education system, since conception we’ve had TV, movies, radio and now the Internet flashing factoids and trivialities through our gray matter.

We’ve read countless books and newspapers and magazines; we’ve had a lot of jobs, been in a lot of organizations, gotten passionate about a lot of causes, known a lot of people, done a bunch of traveling.

The Boomer brain has become like an overloaded computer. But with an obsolete computer, you have a couple of options: You can either upgrade and add memory, or you can clean out old files.

Since that’s not possible, Boomers dawdle along like ... oh, you know ... like that guy Fred McMurray played in that Disney movie ... The Absent-Minded Whachamacallit.

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