Is it really Thursday? And the date… what is the date? I look at the day’s route on the whiteboard – 3:15 depart; 07:00 Fanny Bay; 13:00 Frazer Bay; and 23:00 Pott’s Lagoon. I find the whiteboard, updated every morning, very helpful in terms of orienteering. Living a mostly retired life, it is not unusual for me to not know the date and to struggle recollecting the day.
A month ago, I went to our local clinic for a basic mental acuity assessment. Was my memory, I wondered, worse than that of other people my age? A physician’s assistant would administer the test. Before leaving home, I checked the calendar to learn the date. I knew that I would be asked the day and date – better to bone up on the answer. Walking to the clinic, I repeated the date several times, as a mantra of sorts… just so I would remember.
Thanks to cramming for the test, I remembered the day and the date! I did well, and the P.A. assured me that I was not only average for my age, but I was above average! How I puffed up! And then… like a dog shaking itself free of bathwater, I shook myself back to reality. Let’s be honest: I practiced. Not only the day and the date, but reading an article on Alzheimer’s, I knew that I would be asked to spell a five-letter word backwards.
I think the sample word in the article was WORLD. I tried spelling ‘world’ backwards and found the task nearly impossible. I tried and then I tried again. Once I was past the first two letters, I was lost. I visualized the word, but after saying the D and L, I struggled. What was the middle letter? Knowing that this question would give me trouble in the doctor’s office, I spent days thinking of five-letter words and attempting to spell them backwards. TRAIN… THINK… CLOUD…COACH. For weeks I focused on my task. Periodically, I returned to spelling WORLD.
Imagine my surprise when the P.A. asked me to spell a five-letter word backwards, and the word was WORLD! My weeks of practice came in handy. I spelled the word correctly… automatically without thought or recollection. The P.A. assessed that cognitively I was holding my own. Ha! Little did she know that I had cheated. My mind is not as nimble at my score suggests. That said, if I knew enough to practice and cheat, does that not indicate that I’m still reasonably competent?
Choppy seas last night, and the cook said that the Aurora Borealis was playing in the sky. He needs to wake me next time. This morning I sit in the stern behind the wheelhouse. A stiff breeze is to my back, but I’m bundled up in a shirt, vest and fleece. The sun is on my face. The thrum of the ship’s engines soothes me – the sound of the boat’s wake is lighter and plays on top of the engine’s bass notes.
A day aboard the Aurora is quiet. I can do without the Internet and a phone, but I miss my morning coffee that typically, like bacon and eggs, goes with NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
Sometimes I wonder if unseen forces have put me aboard the Aurora as a form of De-tox. Despite the gorgeous scenery, the breeze wisping my hair, and the sun warming my face, I feel a bit institutionalized… against my wishes. Each day unwinds – punctuated only by breakfast, lunch and dinner – all three meals fabulous, but I wonder if the crew (I’ve begun to think of them as the hospital staff) is quietly sedating me. Part of the healing process I suppose.
The crew is weaning me from my unhealthy addiction to streaming news and tension inducing tweets. Will I make a full recovery?
Time will tell.