Brain strain

‘Perhaps I should go to a paediatrician and ask about getting some dentures,’ I tell the Nearly-Beloved as I hobble over to the sofa on my bad ankle. Thankfully, being of a similar age to me, his brain understands how mine is currently malfunctioning. He nods encouragingly. ‘Podiatrist? Orthotics? Good idea.’

At times this inability to find the right words frustrates me and has me shunning the evening pub quiz for an online dementia test. I always panic when I find myself walking into a room, wondering why on earth I am there. Then I remember I am searching for the pair of glasses that are currently perched on top of my head. Is this a slow slide into senility or simply a mother’s headspace overflowing with surplus information about the whereabouts and activities of her offspring? It doesn’t help that the Nearly-Beloved uses me as his own Google Calendar, casually asking whether he’s due a dental check-up or when his sister’s birthday is. And also, my brain is having to deal with a reboot. During lockdown its bandwidth contracted. After all, nothing happened so there was nothing to forget!

But now, life is back to near normal and standard ‘brain-band’ is no longer adequate. I need a fibre optic connection to help my poor overactive mind cope with all the extra information.  It tries its best, filing words together that belong in the same category or sound similar.  But sometimes they come out all wrong.  Grunting Teen is not impressed when I call him by every other family member’s name bar his own. Nor can he understand that his Nana’s ‘Cadillac operation’ refers to her eyesight not her driving ability.

He rolls his eyes when we forget who the actor is in the film we’re watching, totally unaware that his casual question leads to a night of broken sleep, counting leading men rather than sheep.  But when the Nearly-Beloved sits bolt upright at 4am shouting ‘Andy Garcia’, our sense of satisfaction triumphs over our insomnia. And now we need to triumph over age-related memory loss.

Is it just coincidence or have the children ganged up on us oldies to make sure we ‘use it so we don’t lose it’? Suddenly the family WhatsApp has us subscribing to Wordle, the latest online word puzzle taking the nation by storm. Can we all unpick the daily brainteaser in our allotted maximum six moves? For once the parents have the advantage – they know that certain consonants and vowels are more common in the English language and they take their time to plan their moves. No surprise then that our digital native adolescent, with his short attention span, is the first to opt out. Spelling and patience were never his strong points.

Instead, he challenges me to download an app to recognise the flags of all 195 countries in the world. It’s an impossible task. Whilst he, with his superspeed reactions and heightened visual-spatial skills, is already on level 9 of the game, I am still struggling at the first stage. How many variations of coloured stripes can there be? Look at it one way and it’s Ireland, yet reverse the order and you’ve got the Ivory Coast! Horizontal stripes can mean currywurst and beer will be on the menu. But make them vertical and you’ll be eating your ‘Moules et frites’ with mayonnaise. Then depending on whether the flag has got a sun or stars in the middle means you’re either in Argentina or Honduras. And don’t get me started on all those confusing crescent moons!

Gradually though the brain training pays off. I now have no time for conversations or watching films. My glasses no longer get misplaced. They are permanently glued to my nose as I peer at the screen, uncovering the word of the day and unfurling the flags of the world. It’s certainly more entertaining than going down the bakery for my pork chips. So, what if I can’t speak in coherent sentences? At least the old grey matter can solve a Wordle puzzle in three moves and differentiate between the dragons of Bhutan and Wales!

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