While driving my aging Buick to Albany’s singular City Hall this grey, overcast morning, I learned from National Public Radio’s morning news that the density and complexity or lack thereof of sentence structure in one’s writing, particularly during his or her early years, is a good indicator of the probability of that person developing Alzheimer’s disease during the so-called “golden years.” Apparently, people whose writing in their twenties is densely populated with ideas and multisyllabic words are less likely to be diagnosed with acute memory loss in later life. I’m afraid to look at anything I wrote in my twenties for a variety of reasons that now include possible confirmation of declining mental capacity.
I suppose it’s too late to change my writing style from the spare prose I was taught in journalism school back in the 1970s; but if it helps ward off the seemingly inevitable attenuation of what were from the beginning my sadly limited intellectual powers, I can and will add adjectives, commas, polysyllabic language, and other grammatical flotsam as penance for all those short essays I wrote in my younger days. The danger of no one being willing to read my newly-dense offerings seems trivial in comparison to the ability to remember why I walked from the living room to the kitchen or to recall what I had for breakfast this morning.
This morning’s radio broadcast struck an especially sensitive nerve in my psyche following an incident that occurred yesterday while I was celebrating Memorial Day by languishing around an empty house in an attempt to recover from a virus contracted at Disneyland a short week earlier. Sometime in the late afternoon, I decided to rise above my illness by cleaning up, shaving, dressing appropriately, and going to The Home Depot to purchase something I had earlier realized we desperately needed in our household. Unfortunately, by the time I completed all my preparations, I could no longer remember what I needed to buy at the home improvement center or why I believed I could only purchase it there. It is small consolation that I finally remembered what I needed to buy soon after awakening this morning.
I have also heard that doing crossword puzzles, solving complex mathematical equations, playing chess (presumably with competence), and eating ginseng are steps we should take to maintain our all-too vulnerable intracranial synapses. I now regret that I’ve never been very good at any of these activities, and I am actively skeptical about the value of eating exotic Chinese perennial herbs that always seem to cost an exorbitant sum. Medical researchers are now also claiming, in what can only be described as an anti-Mormon conspiracy, that moderate ingestion of alcohol, coffee, and/or tea are important dietary habits to help prevent memory loss in old age.
Hope for my memory will have to reside in the daily challenges of serving as a city manager because I’m unwilling to change religions for a little short-term benefit, and it’s a bad sign when you can’t stand to read your own writing.