As we come to terms with my diagnosis in my family, we’re starting to understand my brain better and some sources of conflict. One such argument happened last night.
My wife is beautiful, smart, and multi-talented (and in no way required me to write that before I could write about an argument we had). She went out with her friend the other night, which I am totally okay with; we both go out with friends on our own and understand that we need that time away to be sane. Anyway, our youngest son was ill, and she said if he was wheezing or coughing he needed a nebulizer treatment. There are two medicines we use with the nebulizer, and I can never remember which was which. I was sitting on the couch reading and she showed me in the hall closet where she had put the nebulizer and the medicines. She said “give him the H________ not the L_______.” (I can’t remember the names; they may have something to do with those letters. I don’t know.)
I looked at her funny, knowing that I wouldn’t remember which was which, so she said, “It’s the small box in the front.”
That was perfect for me. Later, he did need the treatment and I gave him the appropriate medicine.
Later, we had this “discussion.”
I had told her I gave him a treatment because he was really hacking away.
“You gave him the H________ , right?”
“Yes, the one you showed me.”
“But it was the H________ . You read the box, right?”
“No. It was the little box in the front, like you showed me.”
“But why didn’t you read the box?”
“Because I can’t remember the name.”
“You should have written yourself a note.”
“Why? It was the little box in the front.”
“But we’re talking about giving a child medicine. You have to read the box.”
“No. There are two boxes. The big box in the back, and the little box in the front.”
“But why won’t you read the box? This isn’t an ADD issue.”
“Yes it is,” I said. “The name doesn’t stick in my head. I don’t remember names.”
“But it’s important. This is your son.”
“It doesn’t matter. If I have a student come see me, I look at his name on his paper, I see him two or three times a week, and five minutes later, I can’t remember his name. It doesn’t matter how important it is. In fact because the medicine is important, I was sure to give him the little box in the front.”
We talked it out some more, and realized that while the two of us are similar in many ways, we are very different in the way we remember things. She can remember all her lines from the plays she did in high school. I have favorite poems that I have read hundreds of times, but I cannot recite them: “Two road diverged in a yellow, um, forest?”
I remember things spatially and conceptually. She does not trust herself with spatial arrangements, so for her to be sure, she would memorize the name. In fact, she is quite the opposite of me in this regard.
One of the household duties that seems like the biggest chore for her is putting away the clean dishes from the dishwasher because she gets stressed about remembering where everything goes. For me, that’s the easiest task because everything has its place; I can see that clearly in the cabinets. For me, loading up the dishwasher with dirty dishes is the hard job, because how you fill the dishwasher depends on what kinds of dishes and pots are dirty, and the plan might change partway through. It takes me three times as long as her. So I empty, she fills.
One of my many frustrating habits is my poor memory for lists and names. She used to think I just didn’t care. In fact, when I care a lot, it is harder for me to remember things sometimes because of the added anxiety. (I can’t even remember my own phone number or birth date at the doctor’s office.) So I learned to use strategies to compensate. One of which would be to remember the medicine is the little box in the front. The other is to write notes.