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    When my Father was 90-years-old, he telephoned me and said, “Something terrible has happened to me today.” Alarmed, I said, “Dad, what’s wrong?” He said, “I couldn’t remember someone’s name.” I told him that forgetting a person’s name happens to me all of the time, but that offered him no comfort at all, because he replied, “That does not happen to me!”

    I have a visual memory, and I have discovered that when I write a name on a sheet of paper, I can recall that particular piece of paper with the name written on it. However, when a stranger tells me his name, it usually enters one ear and exits out of the other one immediately—-especially when there are several other people involved in conversation in the room.

    There are many memory tricks that experts advise: “Repeat the person’s name as soon as you hear it.” That’s good advice, if you remember it that long. Another suggestion is: “Use association.” Associate that name with something familiar. Shakespeare might help. In Romeo and Juliet he wrote,”What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would small as sweet.” That’s okay unless you meet someone named, “Daisy,” and you call her “Rose.” Of course, Juliet mused that if only Romeo’s last name wasn’t Montague their lives would be less poisonous.

    Because I have a friendly nature and generally find people interesting, I tend to meet new folks every day. It is not only flattering, but also polite, to remember their names. I recently developed a friendship with a smart, talented woman who has a great sense of humor. I like people who laugh at my jokes! Her name is Gail. At the outset, in order to remember her name, I associated it with a former neighbor who was also named, Gail. However, she was such a trouble maker that her name should have been spelled, Gale!

    What is really embarrassing is when you forget the name of a good friend. It usually happens when you want to introduce her and say, “This is my dear friend____?” At that point, you must not exclaim, “Oh, Sh—t!” because that is definitely not her name.

    Sometimes, it helps me to work backwards by thinking of the last name first, such as “Dickens.” What the dickens was his first name? Oh, Yes! Charles. My consolation is that I always recall a name. However, it is most disconcerting when that particular name wakes me up in the middle of the night. Usually, that is the name of a famous person that I will forget immediately when I wake up the next morning.

    In the cartoon, PEARLS BEFORE SWINE, the little pig character asks the cartoonist for the name of a street. The cartoonist replies, “Gosh, I can’t believe that i can’t think of it. Guess I’m having a bit of a mental block.” Whereupon, the little pig replies, “Yours are more like mental blockades—-“

    While taking my morning walk,, I met a young woman who was walking her very nice, big dog. I remember that she had a German accent and told me that her name was “Greta.” Or, was that the name of the dog? Life can be so complicated!

    Esther Blumenfeld (“Names are a way to keep people in your mind.”) Maggie Stiefvater

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