We had a neighbor in for a glass of wine the other day who later commented to me, You would not know from that interaction that J has anything wrong. She was right – a small-talk situation with a new person for an hour, hour and a half, might come off flawlessly. It’s curious how this can happen. And yet tomorrow J could run into that same neighbor and have no idea where she knows her from, or where she lives, or even her name, only that she seems familiar. And if we had the neighbor in for a glass of wine next week, the exact same conversation could take place without J being aware that she had said or heard all this the week before.
In getting ready for the evening, we were discussing who was coming – this neighbor lives across the street from us, and we have lived here for three years. J had no map in her head that would give meaning to my pointing to the house the neighbor lives in. Now, I hook a name, a face and a house together in my mind as a way to help remember people in our development. Over the three years I have filled in most of the houses with names and faces, or at least some information – “new person, don’t know name yet”, or “has little black dog” – etc. It never occurred to me that this could be difficult until I experienced J being unable to do any of it.
Speaking of lacking mental maps, another way this difficulty presents is in putting away dishes in the kitchen. In the last year there have been noticeable changes in this. When we first moved in there were the normal occasional glitches when one of us didn’t remember where the other had decided to keep the vegetable peeler, for instance. Recently, though, I’m finding things in reasonable-but-wrong places, often. And now J takes to unloading the dishwasher onto the counter and letting me put the stuff away. She comments more often, I don’t know where this goes. It’s startling, sometimes, and hearbreaking. I’m trying to stay laid back about it and keep finding ways to let her participate that won’t frustrate her too much – this is where reading the books helps, with ideas other people have come up with in similar situations. Creating Moments of Joy (Bracky) is a good read for this kind of idea.