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Did I Forget Your Name, Or Are You Someone Else?
Wednesday, January 19, 2011 • Posted January 19, 2011

One of the quirkier aspects of getting older is the amount of seepage one has from all that information rattling around our heads. We know birthdays, anniversaries, addresses and phone numbers. When it starts to be too much to remember, we have address books (paper and electronic) to store everything in for safe keeping.

But, there is one thing that we have to keep track of that can't be conveniently placed into those repositories of data -- names!

I've never been very good with names. Someone will walk up to me and I immediately have a spark of recognition. I remember riding the log flume at Six Flags with them back in high school. The only problem???? I can't remember their name.

It's been a running joke with my friends and family that I would be editor, and be charged with putting names with faces throughout the paper. They all know that there is always going to be a good chance that I'll get the wrong name with the wrong person, and they cross their fingers that Donna or T. J. will catch it before we go to press.

Around town, folks will walk over to a table while I'm eating and start carrying on a conversation. I know where they live; I know where their children go to college; I even know what they drive -- I just don't always remember their names! That's not usually a problem if I'm by myself; but, if I'm with someone else, the etiquette demands at least a cursory introduction of all parties. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes, well, not so much.

And now, just over the half century mark, I wonder if it's going to get worse. Everyone I talk to tells me that, as they have aged, it gets harder and harder to put a name with a face. However, one recently passed acquaintance told me that she got around the problem by facing it head on. When encountering just about anyone, she would grasp their hand and say, "Do I know you?" No one seemed to mind.

During her last years, my grandmother Gamel started having trouble remembering names. Connie and my dad took all the pictures in her room, including photo albums, and put name tags on them. When no one was around, she was able to run through the faces and the names much like a fifth grader runs through division flash cards. It gave her a bit of satisfaction and peace of mind being able to recall who the person standing before her was, and helped her establish just why they might be there in her room.

I've goofed a few names in the paper over the years. During my first year, I put a photo in of a couple who were awarded a conservation award. I got his name right; but, for the spouse, I had put the name of his first wife! Fortunately, this is Mason and the two ladies are friends. They found it amusing.

I put the wrong photo with an obituary less than a year ago. That made for an interesting phone call on Wednesday morning as I called the lady in the photo to inform her that, contrary to what might appear in the paper, I knew that she was indeed alive.

I think part of the problem with remembering names and faces in Mason is that we are a small town. Unlike Austin or San Antonio, we have contact on a frequent basis with almost everyone else that lives in this community. And, we interact with them, which means a simple nod does not always suffice.

Our children attended school together. We attend the same church. We sit at adjoining tables every time we go to lunch. Though a small county, keeping track of 3000 names and the faces that go with them is no small feat. Sometimes, I only see some of these people once or twice a year, and even then, only briefly. Compounding that identification problem is the tangled family trees that we have in Mason -- simply put, a lot of people look remarkably similar if you haven't seen them in a while.

I remember as a child when my mother was angry at something we were doing and she would run through the names to get to the right child. "Connie, Steve, Gerald..." she would list them and finally reach the child that was about to be reprimanded. You knew it was you she was trying to name; but, you often hoped she would forget that last name and you'd be off the hook.

When I originally joined Bethel Methodist Church in Camp Air, even Lamar Leifeste had trouble remembering exactly who he had before him. When he asked if "Charles Lee Gamel" was ready to accept the church, I tilted my head and looked at him questioningly. "It's Gerald," I reminded him. "Okay," he replied, and kept going.

I've never forgotten him!

It’s all just my opinion.

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