This week I called an older woman with whom I used to be close. Through high school, college and even after I was married I came to visit her. Her name is Mrs. Butler and she is an amazing 96 years old. She has lived in the same home about 70 years- the home in which she raised her three boys. She lives alone as her husband died many years ago.
Back in the Fall, my family told me her son (74) died in an auto accident. I didn’t call her then, being insecure as how to relate to her on this matter. Thinking about her lately, and wanting to check on her, I called from Germany and introduced myself (just in case she didn’t remember me). She didn’t. I gave her some details about me, like going to the same church she attended for 16 years and each week, sitting right in front of her. I reminded her I used to visit her home often and even spent the night a few times. I asked if she remembered who painted her bathroom purple (me), but she didn’t remember. I gave her my father’s name (she knew his family)… but no details stirred her memory.
I asked how she was and she told me she was fine. I asked if she still practiced on her piano and she gave me a quirky “no, I already know how to play”. She explained that her son who lives “just across town” comes “every night to visit and bring dinner”. Mrs. Butler was happy when she told me each Sunday he takes her to Kentucky Fried Chicken to eat lunch. (This son has no children and the two of them have a special relationship). Her voice dropped when she told me that her other two sons had died. (*Imagine outliving your children.)
Once she told me the story of eating at KFC about 3-4 times, I asked if she had her son’s telephone numbers nearby. She did. I then asked if she remembered a special number to call if there was an emergency at the house. I told her it was a simple number that would get the police. She had no idea what it was, so I told her to write down “911” on a piece of paper and place it by her phone.
Even after telling her multiple times that I live in Germany, she asked me to come by for a visit. I told her I would, when I come through her town again (it won’t be for a while). She seemed a little lonely, as the only thing she does each day is a small amount of reading and watching TV. She no longer drives or even goes outside. I promised to call again. I held it together while talking to Mrs. Butler, but got off the phone and began to cry.
If you have someone in your life who has forgotten you, it can be sad and perhaps a little distressing. If you want to know more about memory loss, visit this booklet on-line from the National Institute on Aging. It is in large print and is an easy read (see source). I have read about 1/4 of it and even though I don’t see a date it was published, it is incredibly informative. It is about 24 pages long and there is a 1-800 number on the last page if you want to order a copy.