I have known Louise for most of my adult life. We first met when I was seventeen and through the years we have become friends.
Conversing with her can be tricky if I haven't been in at the beginning of her train of thought and sometimes I feel like saying 'Give me a clue.' However, she repeats herself frequently so topics are soon revisited. Repetition is not just a function of old age – I know young and middle-aged folks who are very repetitious. Occasionally I think it must be because I'm not responding enthusiastically enough or perhaps I should SPEAK UP. Some speakers become so locked into their narrative that they cannot be moved on in it and must describe every step or detail of their experience. They remind me of people (usually men) who persist in struggling gamely through a lengthy joke long after everyone has seen the funny ending half-way through. The anticipated laughter is less hearty than is felt to be justified and so, feeling the punch line has been misunderstood or misheard the joke-teller repeats it, perhaps two or three times while his patient audience tries to laugh with the requisite amount of fervour, rictus forming on their aching jaws.
Louise doesn't recount jokes. She has a good sense of humour but I don't think I have ever heard her tell a gag. Now she is in her early nineties and words are beginning to fail her. She admits she has always had difficulty remembering names but now her conversation is peppered with 'doings', 'what'snames', 'thingummyjigs' and 'you knows'. We have had Dalmatians for more than a quarter of a century but sometimes she has to call them 'spotted dogs' for the bidden word will not come to her lips. The names of our grandchildren and our pets occasionally escape her and she compromises with an approximation; for example, Jenna becomes Gemma or Emma and Dominie is Domino. Terrestrial television has become heavenly and is now celestial television.
There are word almost-associations – a supermarket chain called Morrison's becomes William's.
For all that, I hope when or if I reach Louise's age I shall be as alert, interested and independent as she is. After all, what's in a word? or as Shakespeare expressed it so much more effectively in Romeo and Juliet,
'What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.'
As long as the underlying thought or meaning can be communicated and received and the art of social intercourse thus kept alive she will not find herself isolated.