Memory and Humor

My parents, Rella and Barney Cohn, in the 1990s. Their wisecracks live on.

I think about my parents this time of year. My mother was born in October and my father died in November. They’ve both been gone years now and on rainy days like this, I think about the inadequacy of my own memory as a vessel for the entirety of their lives. But that sounds somber and serious and even as my memories of my parents erode, I remember my parents idosyncarcies and my  father and his sense of humor about the decay of his own memory. Here’s something I wrote about them when they were both still here…


What Remained

Ten years ago my father couldn’t tell a red light from a green one. We noticed when he asked the same question twice. How’s the weather up there? A minute later, How’s the weather? How’s the weather? Every visit, he was more shrunken, more confused. Stutter, silence, fall. The first time he disappeared in the Field Museum men’s room, for twenty minutes I fretted among plastic dinosaurs, at last asked a complete stranger to retrieve him, zipped, buttoned. Later on, we sought what remained—memories of a former colleague, Hail, hail the gang’s all here, his great strength of will, bald old snapping turtle gathering his endurance, waiting. Like the time my mother went on for twenty minutes about the origins of the name Zanvel. Natter, chat, a steady rain of knowledge. My father sat silent, dull,  but suddenly leaned forward, grinned, showed yellow teeth, said, I‘m worried about your mother’s memory.


3 thoughts on “Memory and Humor

  1. My mothers birthday is today. She would have been 79. She also had memory problems but it is still too close to her passing away to want to recall them. Thanks for sharing yours.

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