My grandma’s neighbor Helen had to take a memory test the other day. The test is supposed to determine if a patient has dementia or other type of memory problem. In Helen’s case, it was also meant to help her doctor determine whether she should still be allowed to have a driver’s license.
This is a woman who spends hours every day meticulously matching her outfits–which all have a bedazzled or zebra-print component–and applying colorful makeup. She manages to return opened boxes of cereal and kleenex by playing the Old Lady Card and batting her (fake) eyelashes. She shamelessly cheats the system–applying for food stamps and divvying her money up among relatives (who give it back to her in regular installments) so that she can qualify to live in the low-income senior housing my grandma calls home. When we found out the doctor suspected Helen had dementia, I couldn’t decide what to think. Is she suffering from some form of mental problem? I think it’s just as likely that she’s eccentric and sly like a bejeweled fox–but who knows? The latest Helen Story certainly doesn’t lead to any clear conclusions.
One of the questions on Helen’s memory test was to name a word that starts with “F”.
“I just blanked,” Helen told my grandma when she recounted the experience. “The only words I could think of were ‘fart’ and ‘fuck’.”
“So what did she put?” I asked, fascinated in spite of myself.
“She told me she debated for awhile about which would make her seem nuttier, then finally wrote ‘fart’ very deliberately.” Grandma said.
A few days later, Helen got her results back. Lit by an indignant passion, she cornered Grandma and started venting. “Can you believe it?” She demanded. “I didn’t pass! Now they think I’ve got memory problems!”
Grandma must have been feeling brave that day, because she carefully suggested that maybe the F-word question cost her. “Oh please,” Helen said. “Nobody can think of words that start with F on demand. Besides, why wouldn’t those words naturally come to mind? Everybody does them, after all.”