“There are three signs of old age: loss of memory and I forget the other two.” —Comedian Red Skelton
A phone call from a friend summoned me to take a look at some old car parts. That’s kind of like asking my dog if he wants to take a look at a pork chop. We agreed early Friday would be good time. Problem was, my “light didn’t come on” until late Friday.
Offering a mixture of apology and admission, I threw in a little of my frustration with the increasing frequency of these “little” memory lapses lately. I concluded with a story about Cortez Boatner. Mr. Boatner was a well-known, successful businessman in my hometown of Mount Pleasant, Texas, when I was a youngster. He owned a furniture store, and he always wore a white dress shirt and tie when he came in Perry Brothers to visit with my father. For that matter, my father and most of the other businessmen in town also wore dress shirts and ties then.
Conspicuous in Mr. Boatner’s shirt pocket was an ever-present small spiral notebook and a pen. At some point during many conversations, out came the notebook and pen as he felt the need to document something from the discussion.
“Back then,” I related to my friend, “I thought that was funny. But you know, now that I’ve gotten older, I’m trying to remember exactly what it was that I thought was so funny about it.”
Same thing goes for my sisters and I who delighted in teasing our mother about her memory, or her lack thereof. She probably wasn’t any worse at forgetting things, it’s just that she had this comical way of doing it that we thought was funny.
Banana pudding was dad’s favorite dessert and mom made it often. About three bites into dessert one evening, dad stirred his as if searching for something, He stopped and announced, “I don’t think there’s any bananas in mine.”
“Oh no,” mom exclaimed. “Did I forget the bananas?” Sure enough, the unpeeled bananas were still lying on the kitchen counter. As a consoling gesture, we quietly ate every morsel of her banana-less banana pudding while extolling its magnificent taste.
Then there was the time her “good” sewing scissors disappeared. “They were right here,” she said, her voice registering a note higher with each word. “I just had them in my hand. Did one of you get my good scissors,” she quizzed us.
“No,” we chimed in unison. As mom continued searching, I checked the refrigerator in hopes of finding leftover banana pudding, preferably some with bananas. No pudding, but what I did find was scissors. Mom’s sewing scissors. Behind the ironing bag.
Although ironing clothes is becoming a lost art today, time was when freshly washed clothes awaiting the application of a hot iron were sprinkled with water and stored in a plastic ironing bag in the refrigerator. My mother ironed everything. She ironed school clothes, church clothes, play clothes, my father’s work clothes. She ironed tablecloths, sheets and pillowcases.
“Mom,” I called out, attempting to conceal my laughter upon finding her scissors in the refrigerator. “Were you ironing before you were sewing?”
I think about my mother on days when I arrive at the grocery store while trying to remember what was on my shopping list, the one I left at home. And, I’m still trying to remember what seemed so funny about Mr. Boatner’s habit of carrying a note pad in his pocket.