April 23, 2017

What’s in a Name?

• By John F. Chisholm •

Names begin to escape me.

It’s true. I’ll meet someone who I haven’t seen in years and be unable to come up with their name.

It’s incredibly frustrating. I’ll cudgel my mind. Come on, I’ll think. I know his name as surely as I know my own. Alas! That thought is misguided, if not outright wrong.  Worse, thinking it doesn’t help retrieve the name.

It’s only later, long after the encounter is past, that I’ll snap my fingers. “Harold Soucy!” I’ll exclaim aloud. “That’s his name.” It might even be right. (I’ll be certain of it at the time.) But of course recalling it hours after the encounter doesn’t do anyone any good.

Why didn’t I remember Harold’s name at the time?

My fear is that my brain is aging. In fact, I’m sure of it. The facts are inescapable. It’s very tempting to lie to myself: Oh, that was just a onetime thing. A fluke. Surely no one would remember a name from ― let me see, when was the last time I saw Harold before today?

I might even believe my own platitudes ― at least until I run into someone else who’s name I should know and no longer do. In fact, I greatly fear that memories ― if they’re still there at all ― can no longer be found on an instant’s notice, the way I’m used to. Not anymore.

The result?

I want everyone to help. I need it.

When you happen upon me, exclaim loudly (I’m hard of hearing now, too), “Hey, John! Remember me? I’m Harold Soucy.”

That way I can make a face at the outrageous nature of aging. “Of course I remember you, Harold.”

I won’t be lying. I remember a great deal about Harold.

Unfortunately, his name isn’t one of the memories.