A name. What does it mean to hear it spoken out, or to be called for? For some, it is a longing. Many rarely hear their own name formed in another’s mouth and delivered into the air between. Softly, kindly, in anger or loaded with blame, a calling for help or a reprimand, they might be happy just to hear their name at all. An upward inflection helps however. To be called is to be needed, wanted, valued. To never be called is to feel invisible, unimportant, not needed at all. Even if a person isn’t very fond of their own name, it is about the only thing of real value any of us can say we own, even if we do share it with others.
I never really got the hang of my own name. Even as a teenager, once I had the head power to wonder why on earth my parents chose it at all, it sounded odd to my ears and still does. I spent a large part of that angst ridden time planning to change it as soon as I learned how. I wanted an exciting name with an ethereal ring to it, something that others wowed at. Plain Judy just cut no mustard at all. Over time, I forgot all about my name changing plans as life got herself very busy around me, and I had to keep moving for fear of being trampled in the rush, or, worse, left behind.
I suspect I am very blest nowadays to hear my name called so often, even if it irritates me – the name calling, not my name, although it still doesn’t suit me. But, I am old enough, now, to ignore such frippery thinking. When I am needed I am called for, sometimes up to 50 times a day. I am the one to help put this on, or take that off, or fix this or collect and deliver that. I am the chosen one. When I have just settled down to work on my tapestry, or have sunk my butt into the big old armchair, or am just zipping through the kitchen for more wood, or to write down a post it note, or to add to the shopping list and I hear my name called, I feel a scream rising. Perhaps I had already fetched and delivered, assisted with the pulling on of a warm jumper, washed the porage bowls etc etc and thought, foolishly, that all was well, that we were done, for now. I would be wrong. When someone cannot do for himself what he considers important right now….well, there is only one recourse, don’t you think? Where is she? Oh, there she is…….
And everything is right now in dementia. However, I have thought long and hard about it, reminding myself that if this was me, stuck in a chair, mobility very challenged, no dexterity in my fingers, no lightness in my feet and a demising ability to think laterally, I would need help too. How patient would I be? How would I feel about not being able to jump out of bed, pull on clothes, tiptoe (there’s no more tiptoeing for him) downstairs, flip open my laptop, sign in, write, make tea, light the fire, sweep the floor, sync my music to the speakers and so on and on and on – all that I take for granted, in truth. How would I adjust my mind or would my mind adjust itself on my behalf?
I can’t answer any of that, because I cannot really know. All I can do is to respond with compassion. Well, that’s a big ask sometimes! So, here’s what I do (sometimes)………I hear my name called, twice, thrice. and I hear it but stay quiet, giving myself time to push down the scream. Can you hear me? he calls. No, I reply. It makes us both smile. At other times I run through the room at speed, obviously on a mission for wood or bird feeding or somesuch and desperate not to hear my name called. My name is called. This time I ‘can’t’ hear. Perhaps I am going deaf. Perhaps I am just so deep in thought, no sound can get in. When I do respond, I must bite back the tone of resignation, that ‘yes?’ that says Please stop Bothering Me. I don’t always manage it. Remember, I admonish myself, that he needs your help. Well, yes, he does, but he mustn’t lose what remains of his strength. There are some things he can still manage on his own, so there.
I told him, the other day, that I planned to change my name. After all, I have a long list of muchnicernames gathered over the years. Oh, he grinned, knowing my faddiness, what will it be?
Ah, I replied. I’m not telling you.