Saturday, August 20, 2011

Old People's Words

Once a week I stop to visit my parents at a nearby continuing care facility. Doing conversation with them can be kind of a trip now days. At 96 Dad  is doing remarkably  well, a kind of light hearted banter seems to be our norm and the way he seems most comfortable. But Mom is no longer playing on the same field we are. She usually can not speak whatever is in her mind, the right words just will not come, and so generally she does not participate. But now and then she chimes in and it is a challenge to make sense of what she says.

A recent conversation between these two people who have been married 66 years made me smile.
Mom says to Dad - "I got the things you wanted in the mail". [this didn't happen]
Dad:  [playing along - if ever you need a good sport this is your man] Oh? And what might that have been?"
Mom: "Well if you don't remember I could have it sent again".
Dad: "OK. Great! Mail it twice."

We like to think we have a good grip, that we know what is real and what is not real. We trust our memories and think they are a truthful story of our lives.  But apparently this is not so. Research has shown that our memories change like everything else. They may be altered by the response we get in the retelling. What gets the best feedback becomes the new truth. It is possible that complete fabrications become absolute truth. Something that never happened becomes something we are sure we did. Of all the countless images and stories who knows in old age what pieces of our minds will remain for us to think about.

I certainly hope I remember the time I swapped some songs with Paul McCartney in the lobby of the Hilton in NYC in 1978.

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