Dear Dr. Boli: Why does my mom keep asking me “What did I just say?” Has she forgotten already? —Sincerely, Emmanuel Proust, age 7.
Dear Sir: Parental amnesia is surprisingly common, especially in subjects with young children. Your mother has indeed forgotten what she just said, and is hoping that you will repeat it so she can be sure it was not the embarrassing nonsense she fears it might have been. When you do so, she will probably say “that’s right” or something similar in a smug tone of voice, as if she were only “testing” you; but you see through her clumsy bravado. You know that she has a serious problem. You should be prepared with a better answer than the literal truth the next time your mother asks “What did I just say?” For example, you might tell her, “You said that you can’t get hamburgers from a rusty spigot,” or “You told me to grab Aunt Irma’s Parthenon before it gets to Erie.” If you say these things seriously and convincingly enough, you will eventually persuade your mother to get the medical attention she obviously requires.