Inexplicably, Lulubelle surfaced on my computer screen one morning recently along with a bunch of pretentious phrases, as if some word-glutted cornball poet had broken in and run amuck on my keyboard.
Almost immediately it became an attempt at confrontation, me struggling to look my sworn enemy, SENILITY, directly in the eye with my most withering and penetrating gaze — which admittedly ain’t very effective given that I am legally blind. Actually, I can barely see. But I can GLARE!
That done, almost weeping, I resumed my mortal struggle, trying to trap that tricky bastard, SENILITY — but of course, he got away.
Granted, I am no formidable foe. At 85, I am absentminded and vague. I forget things even the important items on lists that I’ve just jotted down to remember. Often, I misplace the lists! And with each lapse comes the terrifying possibility that I constantly live with. BUT I HAVE RULES!
I NEVER JOT ON THE COMPUTER! That machine, the Apple of my eye – is the most expensive personal item that I have ever bought myself. I am quite frugal. “Damn stingy!” my kids say. The computer – is for SERIOUS, MEMORABLE work like this essay. The last few of my eighteen published books were written on the computer with relative ease and much pleasure.
On my machine that morning after the cryptic “LULUBELLE” there appeared a short list of disparate phrases, seemingly unattached fragments gathered by a pretentious mind, a stack of half-baked thoughts, discarded images from a fevered brain. But how did they get on my machine? I read the first three phrases aloud:
“… the unilateral robin…”
“… the dichotomy of love…”
“… the rusty hinge of ratiocination…”
I shut my eyes and shook my head to clear it.
It was 8:00 A.M. I’d just arrived at the computer all revved up and ready to write when I’d turned it on and was confronted with Lulubelle, et al: the, drivel was totally irrelevant to me.
Maybe some hacker last night was lusting for my credit card number? I didn’t know if that was possible or, really, even what it meant.
I panicked. Obviously, someone else had been using my machine. These were absolutely not my notes. Never! First, uncertainty chilled me. And then fear, reinforced by terror. Sheila, you’ve lost it. You’re senile! These days that possibility is my frequent companion.
What to do? I lie to myself often enough to get through the weirdest hardest days. But I can’t really fool me. No one has access to my computer. I stared at the words on the screen trying to remember or relate them. Truth attempted to peek in. At first, I drove it away. Come on, Sheila Old Girl, those were probably late night false starts by an aging weary grandmother who fancies herself still a writer. Perhaps I had just now temporarily lost memory. Very late the night before, I had made a few revisions on my manuscript. But there was certainly no Lulubelle anywhere about.
Almost weeping I frantically phoned my daughter, the doctor. (OH JOY! I REMEMBERED HER CELL PHONE NUMBER!) She was out-of-town in Washington, D.C. on business but was not fazed by her hysterical mother’s call. That’s because I call her often, sometimes every ten minutes.
“Mom, were you working very late last night?” she asked. “Perhaps this is the tail end of that tiring session and it may well all come back to you.” She stopped speaking.
My answer was bitter and defensive. “But I have no idea who Lulubelle is! I have never spoken or thought that name in my life. I am not crazy! I once knew a song with a Lillie Belle in it,” I remembered hopefully, and I began to hum, “I’ve got spurs that jingle jangle jingle….”
Silence greeted my musical attempt at levity. Then, “Mom, these lapses happen to everyone,” she said gently, “more often to older people – but to everyone. Now go on with your work. Just shrug it off.”
“Easy for you to say. Eighty-five year olds don’t shrug casually. Brittle bones, you know.”
“Come on, Mom. Get to work. Don’t waste your time with this. Just pick up where you left off.” There was a long silence. Then, “I have a favor to ask, Mom. When you remember who Lulubelle is would you call me? I would really like to know about her.”
Amazing! She has to know everything. Doctors have strange minds, I guess, omnivorous minds. Well, I will certainly call her.
But so far, Lulubelle hasn’t shown up yet. Maybe she’s happily perched near the unilateral robin trapped by the dichotomy of love on the rusty hinge of ratiocination.
Who knows? Surely, not me!
I wish I could shrug.