Memory - A Fleeting Thing

By: Bob Spiwak

A writer's note in the Methow Valley (Wash.) News sparked a gleam of recognition and failure on my part. She wrote a sort of open letter telling the world that she could not remember peoples' names, even if they are her next-door neighbor.

The failure part of this equation comes from my having the same malady. If she is afflicted it is obviously not just a sign of aging, as the old farts I see every morning tell me in an effort of reassurance. They say this probably more for themselves than for me.

For years I have had this problem. I meet it head on with embarrassment, mind racing to make a connection, scuffing my toes in the snow, floor or putting green depending on the location of the encounter, and failing. So a "Hi" or "How'r ya doing?" has to suffice.

This first came to my attention when I passed retired President Gerald Ford at a golfing conclave. It may have been a good thing, because now that he was out of office would he still be "Mister President?" I scrambled as I ambled past to remember his first name - we were all golf brethren after all - and could not come up with either Jerry or Gerald. So going by his chair I simply said something vapid, like "How're you hittin' em?" Ex-President Ford smiled wanly and nodded.

That nod was the greatest triumph I have had in the world of golf and one I still treasure. It is in my bio in the several golf publications for which I write. I've interviewed many big stars (of bygone days) and will not drop any names because I don't want to be mistaken for my buddy Bob Cram, who has elevated name-dropping to an art form.

Actually, I'm cheating here because I got that phrase from the Master Cram his own self when one day he proclaimed, "Spiwak, you have elevated living in squalor to an art form." I felt that high praise indeed. But I digress.

From embarrassment I graduated to "Oh well . . ." and would simply chat without worrying about the first name. I might remember the name of a spouse and could sling that out like a Newt Gingrich lie, and the recipient I was sure would know that I know him.

Wiser people adopted a quote such as, "So wife says to me, Tiger, you have to . . ." letting me off the hook because the name bloomed like herbal tobacco in a tomato patch. Tiger . . . of course. This could elicit from me a response such as, "Well Tige" . . . yada yada yada, as though I was REALLY a buddy.

Over the years my technique has evolved into really not caring. The simplistic form of this is right off the top asking, "Who ARE you?" or its derivative, "Who are YOU?" This approach is especially helpful when people approach wearing a bicycle helmet and goggles, looking for all the world like an actor in what has been proclaimed The Worst Movie Ever Made, that being "Plan 9 From Outer Space."

How the hell can you recognize anyone clad in such a manner. Granted, and pardon me feminists, there are some people with bustular endowments that are memorable without a face. But that is another matter, even if I remember most of these persons' names.

So I offer thanks to the writer for alerting me to her admission that younger people have the same problems as those of us far longer in the tooth. This has fortified my attitude to reflect that of another hero, Alfred E. Newman of Mad Magazine.

What? Me worry?

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Now a contributing editor for Cybergolf, Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob's most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultra-private Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.