It is payback time and then some for my teen ridicule of my mother’s memory lapses. She would start a story and I would roll my eyes.
“Muuhhhther, you told me that yesterday,” I would moan, wondering why she could not remember everything she said and to whom she said it. I could. Surely she was doing it on purpose to irritate me.
The searching for words, the looking for keys I held in my hands, the forgetting of punch lines in the middle of a joke started for me at about the same time Mom’s did — around 40. I didn’t expect it to happen to me and certainly not so soon, but it did, and to my friends, too. We laughed about it.
Twenty years later we are still laughing, but what else can we do? Our conversations are convoluted messes.
“I went to see that new movie with, oh, what’s her name? Not Jennifer Lawrence, the other one?”
“Which other one?”
“Oh, you know, the one with the long brown hair. She was in that movie with what’s-his-name. The cute one.”
“Which cute one?”
“The one that won the Oscar last year. Or was it two years ago? Oh, heck. It could have been five years ago. I can’t keep track of time.”
“Well, who did win last year?”
“Well, it was ... it wasn’t Tom Hanks, it was someone else. Who was nominated?”
By that time someone has pulled out an iPhone and is mercifully Googling the 2013 Oscars.
“Daniel Day-Lewis for ‘Lincoln,’ ” she says and puts her phone back.
“But what about the actress?” I ask. Out comes the phone again. And so it goes.
If I were a young person, say, anyone under 40, I would run from the table screaming. For us, it’s business as usual.
Not long ago I was at a gathering where someone was relating a story about a person none of us knew, but it was very important for her to remember a name that meant nothing to us.
“It doesn’t matter,” someone said kindly after 90 seconds of “Oh, what was her name?” But the woman wouldn’t be forestalled. Luckily the name either came to her or she forgot what she was going to tell us and moved on. I don’t remember.
Still we keep talking ... and laughing. A group of us got together at a friend’s house awhile back. The friend had moved several months earlier from the house next door. We had been to her new house on more than one occasion.
Usually Polly (not her real name) was the first one there. When she was more than 10 minutes late, we grew concerned. Suddenly the front door burst open and we heard Polly scream, “Just shoot me!”
Polly had pulled up to the house next door wondering why the rest of us had parked farther away. She bounded up the steps, dessert in hand. Not bothering to knock, she opened the front door, shouted “Hello!” and saw the new homeowner and guests gathered around the dinner table. Mortified, she made her way out as gracefully as she could. Luckily the new owners are kind people. Not at all the type to shoot first and ask questions later.
We laughed. We laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe. Not in ridicule (OK, a little) but more in solidarity, knowing any one of us could have made the same mistake. Nonetheless, Polly has taken, and will continue to take, a lot of grief over her faux pas.
In the same vein, I will be chastised for calling her Polly instead of something glamorous like Martine or Francesca. That is, if we still remember this column next time we see each other.
Jan Hearne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.