Emily shares her perspective this week:
A couple of months after Tracey stepped down from her job as dean of Trinity Cathedral, she was shopping at a local mall when a woman approached her and said, “Tracey, I know you don’t remember people, but I’m sure you will remember me!” Tracey asked the woman to remind her, and after a minute or so of fishing around in the conversation, she was able to recall some details — which church service the woman usually attended, where she worked, etc., and they caught up for a few minutes. Tracey felt embarrassed and awkward and was relieved when she could politely go on her way. No doubt her parishioner was disappointed at not being remembered.
What is it about recognition? Even those of us who think we fly under the social radar want others to remember our names and our faces. And when they don’t, we can’t help but feel diminished, that perhaps we just aren’t all that memorable.
And then there is the flip side, when we try to recall the names and faces of others. Those who are good at this wield tremendous social advantage in personal and business settings. The rest of us try to fake it as best we can.
After a certain age, many people tend to forget names, and some of us were never any good at it. One of the things I always admired about Tracey before her brain re-wired itself was her ability to see you once in the receiving line at Christmas and not see you again until the following Christmas and yet ask, “Did your mother’s ankle surgery come out OK?” On the other hand, I am lucky if I recall your face tomorrow and your name after eight or 10 encounters (after I ask someone else to tell me because I am ashamed that I forgot it — again).
When it comes to names and faces, the care partner doesn’t have the excuse that the person with dementia has and is therefore doubly discomfited. Not only do we have to think for two people, we also have to remember for two people, and that includes your name, your face and where in the world we connected in the past.
Please, if someone — anyone — ever forgets who you are, use those good manners your mother taught you and remind the individual without making a big deal of it. Or better yet, just walk up and say your name so that no one has to be embarrassed. Maybe give a little context to make it easier: “Hi Jim, I’m Bob Whatsit and you and I know each other from the City Club,” is brilliant. While it is entirely possible that he already knows exactly who you are, just give him the benefit of the doubt. Try to remember that it isn’t really about you and whether or not you are memorable; it’s about a disease that leaves two people with one brain between them — if they’re lucky. - Emily