There was this Mom picking her kids up one day early in the school year. A man walks by, smiles kindly and says hello. The next day, the same man walks by with thin rimmed glasses, a plaid shirt and khaki slacks and not only says hello but this time raises a hand for a high-five from the youngest girl which she returns with a big smile. A block later the mom says, “Who was that man? Do you know him?” Both daughters look up with joyful eyes smiling. They were waiting for the punch line. “Mom,” the youngest says, “that was my teacher last year!” They both giggle and continue walking. I smile helping them believe I was being silly again. I smile at the joke I never meant to tell.
This was not a joke though. This was not a story to humor my little ones after a long day at school. This was a reality I face too often. People I should know, familiar individuals whom I have spent many days conversing with, are no longer familiar to me. I laughed at my presumed silliness, but I also shake my head considering how many friendly relationships I have passed by when someone assumes I am ignoring them or not responding in a friendly, familiar manner. As I quietly passed by the former teacher, he probably assumed I wanted nothing to do with him now that he was no longer part of our everyday lives. That was untrue. He seemed to be a very nice man. I was not trying to be unfriendly as I cautiously glanced at him giving a high five to my child. I was just unaware we had met before.
This distance and difficulty in fostering friendships is also noticed online. Social media is a good way to reconnect and open doors to people from the past that miles have left distant. Last fall, I became active in the world of Facebook. I was excited to find people from years ago. I found that even this connection of not being face-to-face still held challenges due to my lack of ability to recognize people. I remember putting in names of long-ago friends. There were multiple results for some of the people. Every result within this list had a photo next to it. None of these faces looked familiar. No connections were to be made in the instances where multiple results came in for a single name. Even through words, even through distance, the effects of prosopagnosia continues to follow me.
I will continue trying to reconnect with people from my past and those I have just met. I will continue laughing at the “jokes” people around me assume I tell. There are no outward signs of having prosopagnosia. I seem silly. I appear to be absent-minded. Regretfully, sometimes I appear rude. To some I may even appear to be standoffish. I really don’t mind if you laugh with me. I just hope you won’t mind if I ask for your name a dozen times…or maybe two.