The Goddess Speaks
The death of brain cells becomes alarming with age
THE FACT THAT brain cells die quickly was information I picked up from an authoritative source. When you have lived many decades, as I have, it becomes important to understand what the death of brain cells does to your memory. It is learning why people's faces fade, why names of friends are difficult to remember. It is alarming to think you might forget who your relatives are.
What got me started on this was looking up a book I had written. Turning the first two pages, I found the names Azarcon, the cover designer, and Samson, who did the layout. Both did me great favors because the cover is unusual and clever, and the layout perfect by my standard. Why, my mind screamed silently, couldn't I recall how they happened to help me? Are my brain cells dying?
Next, my eyes fell on a news item about Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister. The story described the brain surgeries (three) to save his life. The question came to me: When and if he comes out of his coma, will his brain cells function sufficiently to allow him to continue governing Israel? Apparently not. A successor has already taken over.
When one is politically inclined and trained, world leaders become engrossing to study, especially the female leaders now surfacing in Germany, Liberia, Chile and the Philippines. I imagine they are probably in their 50s and that their brain cells are still very active.
MY COMPUTER, I have learned, has a mind of its own and will malfunction, apparently, deliberately. I don't always like my computer, It makes me feel so inadequate.
It won't, for instance, help me find out if the leader of my homeland (the Philippines) is brain-dead. Yes, I am kidding.
Nevertheless, when the American media browbeats readers over how badly Bush is doing, the question comes up: Why does the president of my country behave as if her role model is Bush? Is something wrong with her brain cells?
There are other signs that old age is taking its toll on my brain cells:
The fact that I like to watch an after-dinner TV move sometimes puts me in some kind of a nutty thrall. Should I watch those supercharged sex films? Should I look for a clean movie dealing with family life or cowboy stories featuring hard-to-kill popular actors?
I find I can no longer respond to the dynamic characters of contemporary plots. The jargon, I suspect, is often contrived.
Also, I find I have lost the ability to tease, laugh, kid around or scoff at myself or my partner.
"What are you up to?" my roommate asks.
"I am knitting," I reply.
"You can't be, not with a computer," he declares with exasperation.
"I am knitting words, not wool, dear heart!"
"Will you stop trying to pull the wool over my eyes?" he hisses.
"Yes," I tell myself, "his brain cells are working."
With so many decades behind me, I believe the day is near when I shall go to another planet, or so I tell my dear roommate. The nights are long when sleep refuses to come. It appears that night paints the sky black to torment me. It was so different from those friendly nights when the sky glowed like a cocktail gown shimmering with numberless sequins.
When you are well into your 80s, you perceive and accept that your brain cells are about to go.
Jovita Rodas Zimmerman is a former journalism and political science lecturer in the University of Hawaii system and retired from Frank Fasi's corporation counsel office in 1990.
The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and about women. If you have something to say, write "The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210,
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