Friday, April 18, 2014

Little Things I Can Still Do, Glen Campbell, and Memory

Looks like it’s going to be one of THOSE nights, since it’s 2:00AM, I’ve taken my sleeping potions, and I’m wide awake.  Nathan requested this blog, so I might as well write it.

Little things I can do:

Grocery store checkout totals.  I’ve been able to do this ever since becoming an adult.  I’m really not very good at math; I’m dyslexic (there was no diagnosis for this when I was a kid, they just thought I was “lazy”; I have trouble with numbers.  6 and 7 and 9 together just don’t work for me at all; I have to carefully line them out, sometimes dialing the same phone number 3 times to get it right), but, I can do this:  as I’m going through the grocery store, I’m keeping a running total in my head.  When I get to the checkout, and load all the groceries onto the belt—I look at the cashier and say, for example, “97 dollars”.  Almost without fail, I’m within 5 dollars of the total.  Sometimes I’m off—then the cashier takes off the coupons, and I’m back within the range.  Many of the cashiers at HEB know me, because I’m “that guy who can name the prices.”

I can speed read.  My sophomore English teacher (with whom I credit, along with my 6th grade teacher and my senior Honors English teacher, my ability to write a correct sentence in the English language) gave these little pop quizzes, to make sure you read the assignment.  If you read it, it was a snap:  “On page 93, Tom is having a conversation with someone.  Who was it?”  The answer is “Jim”, and if you read the chapter she indicated, you knew that.  If you didn’t read it, you didn’t; your score, therefore, was either 100 or –0-.  After a few of these (I always had a perfect 100% on my quiz scores), she asked me to stay after class.  “I’ve noticed that your answers are not exactly correct as far as the question itself, but it’s obvious you have read the material.  When did you read the book?”  “The night you assigned it.”  She’d assign, say, Huckleberry Finn.  I’d take the book home and read the whole thing in one night.  That way, I just kind of had to coast along while she gave her little quizzes, and I could pretty much summarize/analyze anything I read.  After that, she set me up with a speed reading course at San Antonio College, and I learned to speed read.  It’s very helpful sometimes; not great when you’re reading the intricate details of, say, a contract or an insurance policy, but great when faced with research.  I still read very fast (when I can stay awake).  I read “The DaVinci Code” in about 4-5 hours sitting on a beach in Florida, for example.  I don’t actually read the words, I read sentences and sometimes paragraphs in toto.  So, if I’m reading for pleasure, I have to purposely slow it down.

Math:  While not very good at math (I’m terrible with fractions and percentages, and let’s just say that geometry and I don’t get along at. all., though I am actually very good at –gasp- algebra!), I can still add, subtract, multiply, and divide in my head.  The same year I learned to speed read, I learned speed math.  I can add a long column of figures quickly in my head, and I can add very large numbers and get pretty close if there aren’t too many—say 6 or 8 tops.
Of course, I mostly use Excel now—but I can still do without it.


One of my first HUGE crushes on any recording artists was Glen Campbell.  He had been a successful studio musician (I hadn’t known that until recently) when the Smothers Brothers tapped him to be their summer replacement show, “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour”.  He was a fabulous guitarist, his vocals were great, and, er, um, he was easy on the eyes.

The news came out today that he is being moved to an Alzheimer’s facility.  He was wealthy and living at home, so if he had to be institutionalized—it’s pretty much gone.

CBS Sunday Morning covered his Farewell Tour.

My Mother (who never learned to read well) suffered from dementia.  She was terrified of mental illness, so we never actually told her that diagnosis.  She knew us until the very last, but there was only a tiny flicker left.

My Grandfather (Dad’s father) went completely away.  He thought it was 1933 and FDR had closed the banks.  He didn’t know us at all.

Dad (though at 90 you have to say, “bravo!”) is getting dimmer and dimmer.  He’s still here, still drives, still knows all sorts of things—but it’s getting harder for him and there’re just a whole lot of things he no longer remembers at all.

It’s happening to me.  It’s the beginning stages, but it’s happening to me.  Matt has moved to Houston and is living with me currently.  He good-naturedly stops me when I’m telling him the same story I told him yesterday.  I’ll have no memory of having told him.

So, maybe these memories will be here for anyone who wants them.  

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