Off North Road : The trouble with memory: Names & nouns
"Here come the Hoxsies," the newcomers announced. They obviously recognized us. We said our "hello's" as we knew we knew them but had no clue as to their names. An embarrassed cloud enveloped Mary Ann and me while I sifted every smidgeon of random talk for clues to the names of husband and wife who now sat opposite us. We counted, each couples together, the number of our children, grandchildren, even a rare great-grand, recited the statistics of births and deaths, graduations and weddings, education and job experiences and early careers. We were all talking now but no names came to light despite the unspoken efforts to remember.
To my intense embarrassment, I heard my wife's counterpart reminding me that I had delivered her of her first child, a 10-pounder at that. "And you did a good job," she added. "That's good," I responded inanely.
The water was growing deeper. The advantage of memory strength was obvious across the room. I reminded myself how many times I had said to myself how important it was to ask right away a person's name if you met him or her and could not remember a name. You did not want to say, "I don't remember who you are." A simple, "I can't remember your name," is sufficient. They'll understand. We all have gaps in memory, especially for names of persons we don't see often or for a long time. The confession, minor as it may be, is a relief for all parties and promotes a better and more intimate feeling among persons who are basically glad to see one another despite the lapse in memory.
I began to sweat a little under my winter shirt and I finally croaked out that we still could not recall the opposite couple's names. "Ilene and George" popped out from their side and a little later a last name, "White," floated across the room. Ilene and George White's names ignited within me a whole series of memories of a large family with great trucks, happy people on the road and a hearty wave every time we passed one of the family. These were today's rewards for having met these two people again after 50 or 60 years. Even so, I remained stung that I could have forgotten Ilene's name after such a huge event in her life and mine.