Saturday, November 7, 2009

An Elephant Never Forgets, and I Am Not An Elephant

My friends wanted me to remember to write about the things I can't remember. On Thursday, when I was in for chemo, three of them were nice enough to come and spend some time with me. When they asked me to write about this, I was entertained by the idea. Of course, today, before getting started, I had to ask my friend to remind me of some of the things I've forgotten so I would have enough content with which to write the post.

One of those three friends had lent me a movie, When Harry Met Sally, the last time she was in to visit me in the hospital. Naturally, she asked me on Thursday if I had watched it, and my immediate thought was, "Oh, no, she let me borrow her movie like three weeks ago and I didn't even watch it!"

"Umm, oops, I'm sorry, I forgot," I said.

I then noticed my other friend sitting next to her, whose face was turning red as she said, "Jon, what are you talking about? We watched that movie together the last time I was here!"

"Oh, we did?" I asked, somewhat embarrassed.

"Yes, we did!" she responded. "Don't you remember how it started and stopped a million times and we kept trying to fix it?"

"Yeahh, that sounds familiar," I said.

"You don't remember," she accused.

"No, not really," I admitted. But I wished I could, nobody wants to forget about something they've done, even if it is just watching some silly chick flick.

I also can't remember watching the final four episodes of season one of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, even though I've watched the episodes twice because I tried again once I blanked on them after the first attempt.

I told my friends about earlier that day in the clinic, when a nice woman came to sit down next to me and said, "Hi Jonathan, I'm (insert name, because I have no idea), remember me? I'm the karate master."

I must have looked at her as if she had three heads, because she went on, "Oh, it's okay, we have met before, I'm sure, but can I talk to you about the things I can offer you?"

"Sure," I said reluctantly, and she continued to tell me about the karate and mixed martial arts and such classes to which she could invite me when I'm ready to start building my muscles again. She also asked me about the sports I used to play and all the ways I used to be active, which of course made me feel great, and she told me about all the ways she is still active, and I felt even better.

When she finally left me alone, a young doctor emerged from behind a door, and quickly noticed me sitting in my chair.

"Hi, Jonathan!" he exclaimed, clearly happy to see me, and I reciprocated with a much less enthusiastic greeting, but a greeting nonetheless, having no clue in the world as to whom the doctor was. I'm sure he was one of the countless doctors who comes in to see me when I'm in the hospital for chemo and insists on listening to my heartbeat or pressing on my stomach so I have to hold in a fart or asks me about my pain even though another doctor whose name I also never remember has always just been in to do the exact same thing five minutes earlier.

He didn't stay to talk, thank goodness, because I was feeling enough like an Alzheimer's patient and wanted to be left alone.

"Remember the jello story from way back in Nyack hospital?" my friend asked, returning to later that night in the hospital room.

"No, remind me," I said, as the other two perked up.

"Well, the nurse had just come in to pick up Jon's full urinal, and she left with it to do whatever it is she does with a container full of pee. Then, a few minutes later, she walked back into the room with a plate of yellow Jell-o for Jon."

"Oh, no!" Jon quivered, "You made my pee into Jell-o? I don't want to eat that!"

The nurse obviously claimed that it was normal Jell-o, made without pee, but if my memory serves me (ha, ha) I'm sure I didn't eat it.

My friend also reminded me of the way I used to turn my temperatures into radio stations whenever the nurses read them to me aloud. I should remind you all that I was still heavily medicated through an I.V. during my days at the old hospital, so I can't be fully held responsible for my idiocy.

So, a nurse would read off my temperature, let's say it was 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit, and I would chime in with something like "Lite FM!" or if it was a little higher, say, 99.4, I might say, "99.4, The Buzz!" or something to that effect. I am unaware as to whether or not any of my stations actually exist, though they might somewhere, but it was mostly for entertainment. I remember on one particular occasion I was fighting off a tumor fever, and my temperature was rising pretty fast, getting up into the 100's and higher. My sister and friend were beginning to panic, but I just kept on shooting off names of radio stations as my temperature continued to grow.

"101.5, Jack FM!" and then "102.7, The Swing!" followed by "103.6, Oh, The Heat!"

I'm not sure what I actually said in response to the numbers, but with the last one, I was definitely getting nervous, and the next thing I knew I was being wheeled downstairs to a different room where they took the necessary precautions to make sure my temperature didn't get too far out of control and pose any real danger to me.

I obviously don't remember the names of those nurses, and I really have trouble with the names of all the hospital staff unless it's my doctor or the nurses who've been on my team since the very beginning of my time at Columbia. Even then, it took me a while before I could stop saying their names apprehensively for fear that I was calling them the wrong name and was about to be embarrassed.

On Thursday, when my friends were visiting, my nurse for the night shift came into the room to begin prepping me for chemo, and she said hi to everone, introducing herself as Patti. Needless to say, after she came and left, a few moments later, I turned to my friends and asked, "What was her name, again?"

"Patti!" my friends all responded in chorus. I guess it was an easy question.

I've always had trouble with names, though, and it usually takes me a few tries for them to really stick in my brain. Still, it isn't fun feeling like there are so many things I've been forgetting over these few months, and that it probably isn't going to stop happening any time in the immediate future. But I wish I could forget some of the bad stuff, too, like feeling sick, or the pain, or throwing up. Maybe having "selective memory" is just a false creation, or wishful thinking. Nevertheless, it's still kind of funny to think about my follies, and I'm fortunate to have good friends around to remind me of them.