Thursday, August 19, 2010

what's in a name

I've been thinking a lot about names. The nouns, common and proper, we use to identify something. This pondering started before my Mother's bold announcement of her maiden name back in May. (see previous story)

Our ability to put a name on something begins, in the beginning. One of the first words most babies say is Dad or Mom. Babies are naming that which is most important. I think it's very significant that a story about naming things is right there in the beginning in the second chapter of Genesis. God tells Adam to name the things that God created.
Do you remember learning the importance of naming and categorizing? Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, specie. Our need to name and organize is strong. I have six of the Audubon Society Field Guides that I use all the time. I saw a huge Chelydra serpentina the other day and last month I saw a Pyrola elliptica for the first time. I had to go look it up and find out it's name.

With dementia the ability to say the right word becomes lost. The ability to put a name to something disappears. The ability to recall someone's name is lost too. I saw this start a long time ago with my Mother.
Who drove you to church today?
"My friend." she would say.
Who was at the luncheon?
"Oh, the usual women."

She'd meet someone outside the post office and chat with them for five minutes, about everything and everyone, never making introductions. Later I'd ask her who this person was. "A friend." she'd say. Now I am more proactive and introduce myself.

I have a friend whose Mother also has dementia. Her mother gives things new names, because she can not remember the words. She calls the flowers in the garden "bulls#*t". This would be funny except that it is now as if her mother has metaphorically crapped all over her garden. The beautiful flowers that were there to rejuvenate her soul when she's feeling stressed from caregiving, now are called bulls#*t. Their new name has become another reminder of the sadness of dementia.

Mom and I have been looking at lots of family photographs. She has torn apart the photo albums, putting all the pictures into boxes. There is no longer any sorting by year, vacation, or branch of the family tree. It is amazing how strong the past memories are, when she can't even remember if the aide came this morning. She tells me wild stories about the beach vacation with her college friends, all the fun they had, and the boyfriends who drove up to meet them there on the sly. tmi Mom tmi.

I show her a photo of two little children, my brother and me. She says "that's her and him", she did not say "you and your brother", she did not say our names.

Mom is one of the ten people left on earth that still uses a 35mm film camera. She can't change, she can't learn how to use a digital camera, and I don't expect her to. Do you know how hard it is to find film for a camera?! And no one does one-hour-processing anymore, well not in our area. So we dropped off two rolls of film to be processed at the local department store. Five days later we went back to pick up the prints.

"Name please." said the clerk.
"Wxyz, w-x-y-z" I said, spelling out Mom's last name.
Mom pushed me aside and yelled at the clerk, "NO! It's Abcd! Abcd! a-b-c-d." Mom was yelling her first name. I was quick this time and said "yes that name too."

For my whole life I've had to spell out my first name, my last name, and even my married name. These words are never spelled like they sound, or sound like they look.
The photos were not ready, so we left.
The next time we went to get the prints, the same clerk queried, "Last name please?"
"Wxyz, w-x-y-z" I said. This time Mom again pushed me aside and yelled "No! No it's Lmnop, Lmnop!" my last name, she's correcting me cause I'm not giving him my last name.

No, a rose by any name other name would not smell as sweet, sometimes they smell of bulls*#t.


rainsinger said...

And that same friend names her stinky dog,her beagle that loves to roll in whatever smells the foulest, "Rose". Sometimes my Rose doesn't smell sweet, but my friends are.

Sandy said...

I've enjoyed reading your blog today and have added a link to my website. Like you, our family photos were all removed from their albums and stored in a giant carboard box. I have no idea why Mom did that.

My own Mom renamed many things but nothing as sweet as this darling garden. I'll never see dandelions quite the same again.

Thanks for the smiles :)