Those of you who are at or near my age are undoubtedly familiar with the expression “senior moment.” It is a polite way of saying that one is going gaga. I have for a long time now had senior moments and they always take exactly the same form. I simply cannot call to mind a name. For example, for the longest time some years ago I could not remember the name of the great classical soprano Kathleen Battle. I could remember what she looked like, I could remember how she sounded, I could remember that she had recorded a glorious CD of Baroque arias for soprano and trumpet with Wynton Marsalis. I could even remember that she had been bounced from the Met because she was apparently impossible to work with. I simply could not remember her name. I would run to the shelf where I had the CD and look at it to remind myself. After a while I tried to recall KB but then I could not even recall that.
Just yesterday, I could not recall Martha Nussbaum’s name although I could recall what she looked like and a fair amount about her career and even a funny story involving her when she was an assistant professor in the Harvard philosophy department but I could not recall her name. Among the other people whose names I have blanked on are David Souter, Thomas Piketty (even though I knew I had written a 9000 word review of his first big book) and my old student Tom Cathcart (although I could remember his first name.)
The fact that I have senior moments does not surprise me. This is quite common among us 87-year-olds. But it mystifies me that it always takes precisely this form. Very likely there is some precise neurological explanation for this but I have not a clue what it is. Anybody know?