My doctor will be interested in the following story about a borrowed book -- a book I do not remember returning. Doctors are starting to pay more attention to people's own sense about whether they are losing it. According to a recent article in the New York Times, studies show that people who sense they are losing it -- even when others close to them can't -- are more likely to later develop dementia.
I'm writing it down now, because most likely I will forget this story by the time of my doctor's appointment; I will only remember that I had a story to tell.
"Doctor," I will say, "I need to tell you the story about The F**king Book." The edgy title will help me remember the details.
I borrowed the book from Bea, an outstanding, larger than life 70-something mother of a friend of mine, at her insistence. Bea is a big fan of betterafter50.com and raved about Oh, To Be 50 Again, a self-helper by Eda Leshan. Bea had lovingly highlighted and plastered the book with yellow sticky things. "Ignore the notes, and don't touch the yellow sticky things," she warned me when she handed it over to me, reminding me that the book had changed her life. "By the way, this book is out of print. Take care." Pressure.
I knew I read the book, taking care with the stickies. I knew I kept it for longer than I should have. I remember distinctly that a little ocean water got on it when I read it on a boating trip. But I didn't recall any details about returning the book. I didn't remember handing it over with a smile and a thank you. I thought I had returned it, and maybe I had. But maybe I hadn't. I had a sense of writing a thank you note and stuffing it in the front cover, but it was just a vague sense -- much like how I am able to recall the first letter of someone's name even when experiencing a full brain freeze.
And then I ran into Bea.
"When am I going to get my book back?" she asked. She explained that she was anxious to give it to her daughter-in-law to read. I just stared at her and plastered a smile on my face. Hadn't I given it back? "Soon," I answered. "Very soon."
That was when the borrowed book became "That F**king Book."
I frantically searched my basement, my bedroom, the den, the piles in the kitchen. Where was That F**cking Book? I tore apart closets, searched boxes in the attic. No book. I woke up at night with anxiety about That F**king Book. I imagined Bea stopping by my house for the book (she said she might) and me having to pretend I wasn't home.
I started to avoid Bea. In the days before Bea's granddaughter's wedding, I imagined she would ask me about the book as we were dancing the Hora, and I would blurt out the truth and ruin the wedding for her. The guilt was getting to me and the truth became obvious: I had lost Bea's treasured book, stickies and all.
I thought about "Plan Bea." I needed to get her another copy. The book was indeed out of print, but I found a used one on Amazon for $.99. When it finally arrived, it was a paperback. The borrowed book was hardcover. I found a used, hardbound copy for the bargain price of $30.00, and when that came in, I knew it was time to fess up and offer Bea the poor substitute.
I approached her daughter-in-law, my good friend, as to how to break the news. I explained the borrowing, the highlights, the stickies, how the book had changed Bea's life and how Bea was anxious to share the book with her.
"That F**king book," I told her, "I have no idea what I did with it."
"The one with the all the stickies?" my friend asked.
"That book is sitting on my night table. Bea's been asking me to read it for months. Of course. Bea and I are apparently both need to have a little talk with our doctors.
Truth be told, I can't remember what the book was about either.
But I do have a hardcover and a paperback if anyone wants a copy. And I know just where they are.