An exclusive extract from his forthcoming book, More Than Just A Lord
My day began as always with the quiet swish of drapes being drawn back by the footman and the sight of Aurora’s rosy-tipped fingers creeping across the capacious grounds of my estate, on which I knew Barbara’s magisterial dogs were already gambolling, such is her devotion to these magnificent beasts. But I knew something was amiss before I rose from the conjugal bed.
It is my custom to greet the morning light with an appropriate literary quotation, and the one I had chosen for today was a paean to the aforementioned fair goddess of Dawn, which of course I remembered word for word: “Hail, gentle Dawn! mild blushing goddess, hail! Rejoiced I see thy purple mantle spread O’er half the skies; gems pave thy radiant way, And orient pearls from every shrub depend.”
Idly, dipping into my supposedly bottomless vault of memory, I called forth the alternate name of Aurora, Apollo’s favourite attendant. That was when I knew something was terribly wrong. I could not for the life of me remember it. Within 8 seconds, the correct name, Eos, was on my tongue. But those 8 seconds seemed like an eternity, as inchoate fear—Alzheimers, loss of arterial blood flow to the brain, a stroke—danced a macabre gavotte in my imagination.
Fortunately, a staff member alerted Barbara to my angst and, handing off the dogs to the kennel master, she was at my side within minutes. Looking rather fetching, she immediately consulted our world-famous family neurologist, Dr. Kermit Keppel, whose company we had enjoyed so much when he and his wife occupied our Palm Beach guesthouse some winters ago for a two-week vacation which, if memory serves (and it does, I am happy to report) occurred on the heels of the gala fund-raiser for his new research centre to which I had contributed a sizeable amount. Miraculously, he had an opening that very morn.
Our chauffeur whisked us to Dr. Keppel’s office. He examined me. There were no apparent signs of stroke or arterial blockage. He then tested my ability to retrieve words with efficiency. What is another word for diatribe? He asked. Rodomontade, I responded without hesitation. What is the word to describe this motion, he asked, making kneading gestures with his fingers on the paper covering of the examining gurney. Floccillation, I replied crisply with just a hint of impatience.
For what, I wondered, was the point of the infantile simplicity of this “game”? Should he not be challenging me? It was on the tip of my tongue mildly to expostulate along these lines, but Barbara, reading my thoughts as is her adorable wont, arched an imperious eyebrow and emitted a sternish warning from her gorgeous green eyes, so I stayed my tongue.
I won’t bore you with an account of my MRI, CT scan, PET scan and various other tests Dr. Keppel arranged for me that very day—really, I haven’t a clue why people complain about our Medicare system; I found it to be first rate—and am happy to report that the 8-second loss of the name Eos seems to have been something of an anomaly, a tiny fugue, as it were, which I would happily forget—or, if you will, “fugue-et” (a little intellectual humour there).
But ironically enough, I can’t! Because my eidetic memory remains as refulgent as ever it was. Let me say that I am not sorry to have sojourned through this vale of existential anxiety. Losing a word, however briefly, has given me a glimpse into the cognitively banal and impoverished life of the average Joseph. I am a wiser and humbler man for the experience.