One weekend at breakfast I asked Mom, “How many brothers do you have?”
She stops and thinks, counting them off in her head, “Three!”, she says confidently.
Hmm, not quite right, but I am not about to correct her, and ask her to tell me about them. After all, I was curious to know which three she remembered.
There’s the eldest, she says. Then she names a middle brother by name, and then there’s the youngest.
What did they do? I asked her.
The youngest ran a shop selling… she struggles with the words… and finally says, that thing you know. He runs it with his wife. Actually he has a wife and children… in another house. And in the shop there was a secretary who was helping him. He married her. The wife and children in the other house, that’s his first wife. The secretary is his second wife.
The middle brother has two daughters. Mom starts to tell me about the daughters growing up and getting married and moving away. At first, I was puzzled, as all this was news to me, and I wondered why Mom had not kept me up with the news. I also wondered when all this happened, and how she could remember it all.
However, gradually the story became more familiar, and the penny dropped for me when she said the second daughter’s wedding took place recently and that I had taken her to attend it. It dawned on me that Mom was talking about my paternal cousins. So she had started talking about her brother’s children, my maternal cousins, and gradually they had evolved into my paternal cousins.
Oh, I corrected her before I could stop myself – it’s the other uncle’s girls you are talking about.
Oh? she says, and continues with her breakfast. Not bothered.
Again, her confidence in her own memories made me doubt my own, until I figured it out. Nonetheless, half-remembering is surely better than not remembering at all.