January 28, 2020

Automatic Pilot Forgot to Tell Me

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

Editor’s Note: John wrote this last year, right before Thanksgiving. We hadn’t launched the site yet, so we saved this holiday goodie for this year. Optimists are we, thinking we’d still be publishing nearly a year later. Happy Thanksgiving, all.

• By John F. Chisholm •

I don’t know about you, but Automatic Pilot runs too much of my life.

I fall into certain patterns of doing things and afterwards simply cannot recall if any one particular task has been done or not.

It’s incredibly frustrating.  At times it feels as though somebody else is living my life, doing things that I’m completely unaware of afterwards.

Admittedly, there’s a lot to do here in the mornings.  The chickens, cats, dogs, sheep and cows all have to be fed and watered, first thing.  Depending on the season, the woodstove has to be started to warm the kitchen or the windows have to be closed to keep the cool air inside the house.  Either way, there’s the newspaper to fetch, coffee to make, toast to burn, calendar to consult, perhaps a shopping list to formulate, the day to plan.  Certainly there’s work to be done.

For example, the fertilizer for the south field is supposed to come today.  I bet that field is still too soft, but I certainly want that fertilizer spread before the ground freezes.  I could use the crawler for its low ground pressure but that won’t cure the problem for the spreader.  That’s on wheels.  I don’t want to rut-up that field.  I could store the fertilizer for awhile, hoping for drier weather, but that’s a gamble ― especially this time of year.  And I have to keep the fertilizer dry, too.

I still need hydraulic oil for the loader.  I was supposed to pick that up when I was last in town.  Of course I forgot.

I look around the breakfast table.  My family’s here.  Thanksgiving is later this week.  Nathan is home with his girlfriend.  Wendy just sat down.  They all have hosts of worries and concerns, not to mention schedules, too.  That compounds everything.

Thinking about how complicated everything gets is when it hits me.  Did I remember to take my blood pressure medication?  I look across the cluttered space, the steaming coffee mugs and half-empty orange juice glasses and clear my throat.  “Ah, honey?  Did you notice?  Did I take my  medicine?”

Wendy shrugs.  “I didn’t see you.”

I hold my head.  “What’s going on?”  It’s a rhetorical question.

Nathan sees no reason to miss an opportunity like this.  Particularly not first thing in the morning.  “That’s easy, Dad.  You can’t multitask.”

Wendy laughs.  “You’re getting old, dear.”

There’s an even simpler rejoinder from my son, “You never could  remember anything anyway, Dad.  Why worry about it now?”

I glare at him.

He laughs, too.

I stand and retrieve the bottle from the top of the refrigerator, emptying it on the table.  “Let’s count pills.  I know how many there were when I filled the prescription.  I know when I picked it up.  At a pill a day since, it should be simple math.”  I scratch my head and finally figure it out.  “I did.  I took my blood pressure medication.”

I close my eyes and search my memory carefully.


I open my eyes.

Either way, I have absolutely no recollection of having taken my medication.  None.  How odd.  I must have taken it while on Automatic Pilot.  There’s no other answer.

The pill fairies didn’t take it.

Nobody else did either.

I put the pills back into the bottle slowly and try to figure my memory out.  I’ve been living with it all these years, you’d think this would be easy.  In fact, why should remembering be difficult at all?  I should know the exact instant when I did something just like that.  I snap my fingers.

But I don’t.

Entire pieces of my life go by without the tiniest shred of memory memorializing them.  What’s with that?  Maybe if the events were a year ago, even a month ago, I could understand it.  Even yesterday wouldn’t be so bad.  But I must have taken that pill what?  Five minutes ago?

Finally, I give up, I can’t think of an explanation.  In fact, as I stand to put the pill vial back on top of the refrigerator, I’m only sure of one thing:

Automatic Pilot runs too much of my life.