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Artist’s Lane: Connect with the name

As we are getting older, some of us are losing our ability to remember names.

I’m not mentioning any names, but Sweet Al comes to mind.

He is getting worse. I told him you have to connect with the person’s name. Think of something or someone you can identify with.

I memorize my students’ names at Wyndham. I fix my eyes on them when they say their name and where they are from, then I repeat it, then I think of someone I know.

Over the course of three hours, I use their name every time I can. I write them later and thank them for coming and call them by name. I might never see them again, but while they are in Pagosa, in my art class, they feel special.

Am I a genius?

No, I just connect. That’s all.

We had renters this summer; his name was Richard, her name was Maureen. Al asked me at least 30 times, “What is his name?”

I told him over and over again, his name is Richard. Exasperated, I said to Al, “His name is Richard Petty.”

Al started calling him “Richard Petty.”

The renters probably thought Al was losing his mind but, to the contrary, he for once identified with the name.

I think he is getting it.

There is one name Al will never forget. It’s been 67 years. Her name is Edith Elmore.

She was Al’s first love. Just mention her name, and he will go on a long dissertation about Edith Elmore — how he rode his bike five miles to see her and how he stood on a coke case and combed his hair.

Apparently, she must have been something else. Al will always remember his first love. He was 10 years old.

I was relating this story to Al’s older brother. — you know, the Cassanova.

He said, “I forget all the womens’ names. I just call them Boo.”

I said, “Boo? I’m sure they all think they are so special, you give them a nickname.”

He said, “Now, I take a picture of them with my phone and type in their name when I meet them.”

I said, “I guess that will work. Maybe Al should try it.”

The other day, Al was talking about someone and said she looked like Helen Back. He has used that expression many times. I didn’t think much about it. I knew what he was saying.

Our daughters were talking and they asked me who Helen Back was. They thought she was another one of their dad’s first girlfriends.

I thought I’d just play along with them. I told them, “You know your dad. He can’t remember any name except Edith Elmore.”

“Well, he remembers Helen Back. She must be special.”

“Oh, she is.” I guess one day, I’ll have to tell them. Meanwhile, they think their daddy knows two names, Edith Elmore and the one that sounds like “hell and back.”

Al expects me to know who he is talking about when he says, “It’s the lady with the long nose, or the short neck.” He’s got to get a grip on remembering names. I’m going to have to work with him.

My daughter says, I need to feed him blueberries, and do finger exercises with him.

I say,“Is this what I have to look forward to? I guess I should feel lucky he still remembers my name.”

Final brushstroke: Oh me, we are all getting older. I don’t know if I have patience for all of this. Some of us are short on memory and some of us are short on patience. I won’t mention any names.

Artist’s quote

“At the end of each day, you should play back the tapes of your performance. The results should either applaud you or prod you.” Jim Rohn, author.

This story was posted on October 10, 2012.