NOT unlike many of my contemporaries, I suffer from lethephobia. To be sure, the word may be unfamiliar, but if you're of the generation that remembers Franklin Delano Roosevelt and thought of him as the president, you know the symptoms quite well. Lethephobia is the fear of forgetting. Lethe was one of the rivers in Hades, near the entrance of the underworld, the other being Mnemosyne, the river of memory. Lethe was the river of oblivion, producing in those who drank of its waters a forgetfulness of the past. And so, lethephobia.
To be candid, the signs of it did not await my gray hair. They appeared very early in my life, and, without consultation, I came upon the only remedy yet developed. I took to making lists.
Lists have become as much a part of my life as brushing my teeth or washing my face. I could no more live without making lists than I could without putting on my pants in the morning. I keep lists in little books that I am constantly buying, at candy stores, supermarkets, stationery counters, rummage sales, and charity bazaars. In fact, I am addicted to little books, hard cover books, spiral books, flexible books, books with crosshatched pages, and books found on hotel room desks.
I keep lists on scraps of papers, calling cards, corners torn from magazine pages, old bills, store receipts, library cards, auto registration forms, deposit slips, prescriptions, cancelled checks, and even dollar bills.
These I stuff into every one of my pockets, in suits, shirts, bathrobes, jogging shorts, swimming trunks, coats, jackets, sweaters, mackinaws, and ponchos. Those in my shirts give my wife particular difficulty, and she berates me continually for the stains that appear when the ink runs on the otherwise spotless cotton.
I write lists at all times of the day and night - while I'm at my desk, of course, but also when I'm eating, shaving, reading, watching the tube, engaging in conversation, viewing a movie, walking, tossing and turning in my bed, criticizing the children, writing a letter, yawning, playing with my grandson, mowing the lawn, and taking out the garbage.