As far back as I can remember, I’ve been memory challenged. One of the things I have the most problem with is names. If I’m not around a person regularly, I’m destined to forget their name. Their face remains indelibly etched in my mind though. I can see them years from any point at which I last saw them and know that I know them, but their name is gone from the hard drive.
One of the things my kids have joked with me for years about is the habit I have of going through a list of names before I call the one I’m addressing with the right name. I must admit, I find that a bit strange in that I only have three children. That may be true, but the challenge to recall has been muddled with the addition of pets and grandchildren. There’s nothing more insulting to my children than for me to refer to one of them by the name of one of our beloved dogs, late or alive, before I use the correct human moniker.
Family reunions are like a gallery of human bowling pins, standing tall, daring me to knock each down with a jovial calling of “hey John, Sue, Elizabeth, or whatever your face is.” Instead of accurately responding with the right label after I have been greeted, I usually say, “Hey. How’re doing? It’s been a long time since…” That usually works well until some relative with whom I spent countless childhood hours together, senses I haven’t a clue who they are, asks, “You don’t know me do you?”
I’ve been retired now for more than four years. I retired from an organization that had more than ten thousand employees, and I was the chief human resources officer. I’m sure you can see the irony in this whole thing now, can’t you? I spent over forty years working in HR, and during that entire time, I was memory challenged. I could remember countless government regulations that affected my profession, but names… As I said before, I tend to be able to recall the names of people I’m around regularly. Working as a chief HR officer, there was an extended group of folks I interacted with regularly. Remembering the names of these folks, no problem. Now that I’ve been retired for over four years, I can hardly remember the names of fifty percent of them.
Someone once told me that not remembering the names of individuals is a sign of disrespect, an indication that folks don’t mean that much to you. The only response I offer to that is, I evidently have little respect for myself too, since I don’t make it a habit of remembering my own birthday.
As I pen this piece, I find myself thinking quite clearly about my problem, “remembering names.” Phrases are coming to my mind and appearing on the screen of my laptop with little delay. Aww, I think I’ve got it, I’m a person who is committed to living in the moment, or someplace close to it. That sounds pretty Zen, doesn’t it? I think I’ll stick with that. To my friends, relatives and associates I’ve spent quality time with through the years, know this, those moments we shared together, years, months ago, they were some true Zen encounters. I interacted with you intensely, in the moment. I would appreciate your giving me some slack. At least I can now say that I suffer from AAADD (Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder).
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.