Denise Day Spencer

March 9, 2006

That good ol’ pineal gland

Filed under: Home Front — denisedayspencer @ 1:06 am

I’ve been helping Clay study anatomy lately. And I’m learning a lot. Take the little-discussed pineal gland, for instance. It produces melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the body’s internal clock. Now I think that’s actually referring to sleeping and waking cycles. But I’m wondering if it might help explain Grandma.

You see, it’s always amazed me how senior adults seem to have an over-active sense of time. When Michael used to be a “Minister of Youth and Senior Adults” (how’s that for a crazy combo?) he learned very quickly that if he announced to his elderly world travelers that they’d be leaving on a trip at 7:00 a.m., they’d all be standing around the church parking lot at 5:45…getting upset and wondering where he was.

Now in fairness to the aging process, I must admit that Grandma has always been one of those “If you’re not there at least 30 minutes early then you’re late” types. (I’ve always been more in the “If it takes me ten minutes to get there I’ll leave nine minutes ’til and hope for good traffic” category.) But her penchant for promptness is definitely becoming amplified with age.

Recently Grandma had a hair appointment for 3:00 p.m. at a little beauty shop no more than five minutes up the road from our house. I passed through the living room at 2:30 and told her that Michael would be ready to take her in 20 minutes. She whirled around in her chair, alarmed. “20 minutes?!” she exclaimed. “Why 20 minutes?!”

Uh…because it’s now 2:30 and the appointment is at 3:00 and it only takes five minutes to get there so you’re still going to be five minutes early, perhaps?

But my favorite example of the overly-eager pineal gland was the day Grandma was going to walk a half-block up the street with us to hear the OBI choir sing at the local church. Did you catch that? A half-block. The service was to begin at 11:00.

At 10:00 a.m. she entered the living room with her coat. “Now, Mom,” Michael began. “Don’t get too excited. It’s not for another hour.” So she sat down in the recliner, the coat over her arm just in case.

Promptly at 10:30 she donned the coat. Now the thing is, Grandma is totally blind in one eye and almost completely blind in the other. She can’t see the clock on the wall. But she knew. Somehow, she just knew.

“Mom,” Michael said, “We’ll leave at 10 minutes ’til 11:00.” So she sat there, dressed for the great outdoors.

Precisely at 10:45 she stood up. And there she stayed. Just standing there, coat on, wordlessly letting us all know that she was ready and we were…well…late.

We took the hint. I guess I can’t complain. We arrived early enough to get a good seat. Of course, the building is so small there’s really not a bad seat…and since Grandma is blind she couldn’t see anything anyhow. But we weren’t late and that’s what mattered.

In doing a bit o’ research online, I read that as folks get older the pineal gland often produces less melatonin and sometimes stops producing altogether. If it does have anything to do with promptness, I figure my level will someday drop completely off the map.

Not to worry. As long as Grandma’s around, she’s got enough for the lot of us.



  1. I guess I was born with that gland ten times normal size and my wife was born without one entirely.

    Jimmy Carter tells a charming tale where he talks about how he likes to be punctual and Roslyn likes to be more “relaxed”. Apparently he would urge and prompt her to proceed out the door whenever they had an appointment. Well one anniversary he decided that his gift to her would be a promise never agaain to say anything negative to her about punctuality. Seems like a very beautiful gift, and as a naturally punctual person, I can see what a sacrifice it was for him. Neat stuff.

    Comment by John M. — March 9, 2006 @ 2:07 am | Reply

  2. as-94783-sa

    nice blog.. i ll come back again :] greets

    Comment by Cash — August 22, 2006 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

  3. Interesting. Maybe it would explain why the elderly are prone to infections, viral illnessess and other diseases. They have a depressed immune system and of course you know by now that melatonin is an immune system booster. But then again, research showed that melatonin production remains constant throughout the entire life span, so I’m thinking your grandma’s issue of melatonin levels would be affected by her near-blindness.

    Comment by melatonin uses in medicine — February 12, 2007 @ 11:05 pm | Reply

  4. Nice blog, Very useful information here, Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Diabetes — October 25, 2007 @ 2:36 am | Reply

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