Column: The task at hand

“Mom, why is my plate all greasy?”

It was 6:45 a.m. and I was quickly making chocolate chip pancakes for my 9-year-old daughter on her birthday, before she caught the bus for school. Cooking spray covered the plate I had just handed her, also piled high with flapjacks. I turned to my 5-year-old. “Did you spray Pam on the plate?” I asked her. She shook her head no. That leaves one crazy person in the room—with a can of cooking spray in her hand.

I am starting to lose my mind.

Spraying Pam on plates isn’t the first indication that I’ve got bats in the belfry, oh no. I am forgetting whole conversations. “We talked about that last night,” my husband said recently. “Remember, you mentioned that couple you saw at the ballpark.” Fear creeps in when I don’t even know what couple he is talking about. I’ve never met them. I’m comforted by remembering the ballpark.

“My name is not ‘whatever your name is,’ ” cries my 8-year-old son, and I make a mental note to try harder. Then, of course, I forget that mental note. Mental notes are tricky to recall when you begin to lose your mind. I have to put things such as shopping lists in writing or I bring home peanut butter when we already have two jars and I forget the toilet paper that sent me to the store in the first place.

I Googled “mind loss at 40,” but I’m drawing a blank on what it said.

Four kids, a husband, a dog and a job make for little space in my brain for extra details. And I’m moving too fast. Multiple balls are in the air at all times. There is no time for setbacks penciled in on my calendar. And during the hectic Christmas season, I am lucky to find my parking space in a crowded lot.

“Slow down,” you say. “Take it easy.” “Take a load off.” “Relax.” I do that, and I wake up two hours later with dribble running down my cheek, face down on the sofa that I meant to be vacuuming. Meanwhile, my children are using me for a cushion while they watch Jessie.

My consolation is that I am not alone. My friends are going down with me. One dear friend locked herself out of her house the other day and had to break into her neighbor’s to get the spare key she keeps there. Another almost walked into a school meeting with toilet paper hanging out of her pants.

The only tactic that seems to be working for me and my memory? Focus on the task at hand. Be fully engaged. In the grocery store, only think about dinner for the week. Don’t contemplate the elements necessary to help complete the science project. Don’t mentally go through the list of people to call before day’s end. Just get the toilet paper, dagnabbit. Just get the toilet paper—make it the Megaroll.

This seems simple enough, but it wasn’t too long ago that I could do more. I could recall multiple obligations and appointment times with ease, and I routinely called my children by their given names. I tried to be Super-mom, -wife, -employee, -daughter, -neighbor. Now I’m a lady with a list and a bit of drool on her cheek because she forgot to wipe it off. Sure, make fun of me. Chances are, I won’t remember your teasing tomorrow. ¦