I suppose everyone at some point has had the embarrassing situation of meeting someone whose name they should know but suddenly can’t remember. The situation I find myself in now takes this scenario to a new level of embarrassment.
Tomorrow morning at about 10 a.m, I will stand before the adult Sunday school class at church and expound further on the interesting story of Hosea. The biggest challenge will not be explaining the parallels between Hosea’s relationship with his unfaithful wife Gomer and God’s relationship with his spiritually unfaithful people. Oh no. My challenge will come when it is time to call on various people to read and then respond to things they might say. The challenge I face will be to look at our pastor’s husband, Charles, and not call him Walter.
Charles is a lovely man. He is soft-spoken, very personable, and very easy to talk to. I admire Charles very much because of the way he is coping with a big problem: He has a degenerative neuromuscular movement disorder that affects his coordination but which defies diagnosis. He has undergone extensive testing at the Mayo Clinic, he regularly sees a neurologist, but exactly what is wrong with him remains a mystery. He does not carry the gene for Huntington’s disease, his symptoms don’t quite match Lou Gehrig’s disease... or muscular dystrophy... or multiple sclerosis.
I know Charles is Charles, but somehow the wires got tangled in my brain when I started teaching the class a few months ago. For some strange reason I began calling Charles Walter. And I don’t know why. My mother’s father was named Walter, but he died when my mom was 10 years old, and from the pictures I have of him I can see that Charles looks nothing whatsoever like my dead grandfather. Charles has dark hair and a mustache and perhaps in my subconscious mind I see him as Walter Cronkite. Or perhaps the actor Walter Pidgeon...
who in his later years was a somewhat fatter version of what Charles looks like.Who knows? Not me, that’s for sure.
Everyone at church – and at home – thinks this is just hilarious and they too have started calling Charles “Walter” as a way of teasing me, which of course just makes the problem worse. Charles even thinks it is funny -- or appears to at any rate. At some point though, it is going to stop being amusing and become annoying – I am already annoyed – and I need to get a grip on it and solve the problem before that happens.