Foiled by Finkel and Foyle by
(194 Stories)

Prompted By Senior Moments

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I have noticed a subtle decline in my mental powers over about the last decade. While my editing remains excellent, I cannot multitask and need to concentrate harder, taking more time with my clients’ work. I marvel at how, just a few years ago at my last full-time job, I edited, managed, and trafficked thousands of projects per year. Occasionally I lose track of my glasses or cell phone, and walk into a room and wonder why I went there, but nothing terrible. My sense of direction used to be adequate; now it’s abysmal without Google maps. And, I’ve always been hopeless with dates.

I knew I'd crossed a threshold when I drew my first real blank on a name.

However, my memory for words and names used to be terrific, and while still strong, retrieval takes longer. In writing this story, I wonder why it is that I remember so vividly what I didn’t remember during my first true senior moments. I knew I’d crossed a threshold when, in about 2015 (those pesky dates again), I drew my first real blank on a name. The story began on a transatlantic cruise that Dick and I took, starting in Fort Lauderdale, stopping in the Canary Islands, and ending in Barcelona. During the years before and after, we took a lot of cruises, but I’ve concluded that the incident must have happened on this particular cruise because the person with the name in question died in 2016.

Without port stops during the Atlantic crossing, the cruise entertainment had to be good and varied. One of the evening entertainers was a pianist named Elliot Finkel, a tall man with a strong presence. He mentioned something about his father during the banter between piano pieces. The following afternoon, I ran into him at lunch, and we struck up a conversation when something occurred to me. “Elliot, somehow I’m thinking about another man named Finkel. Your father? By any chance was he in the Yiddish theater? I saw someone interviewed on a PBS special about the Thomashevkys in the Yiddish theater. He must be very old.”

“Yes,” Elliot replied. “He’s still going strong, and I call him every day when I’m not on a ship.” There we left it.

A few weeks later, back home in California, for some reason I mentioned the PBS special to Dick, and my conversation with Elliot Finkel. “Remember we saw that special on the Thomashevskys? While you were at the pool on the cruise, I talked to Elliot Finkel, and guess who his father is?  F.. F…”

A complete blank. Finkel was clearly there, but no first name would come at all, just the phonetic F sound. OK, I thought, relax and just pause for a while. A few minutes later, nothing. A few hours later, nothing. Right before I went to bed, I willed myself to dream the name. Nothing the next morning. Of course I could Google the man, but I wasn’t ready to give up. A few days passed while I fretted, and finally I gave in and consulted Google. Aha, Fyvush! Fyvush Finkel! I burned the name into my brain.

Fyvush Finkel in later years. He was also in American movies and television.

Of course there was no essential reason to remember the name, but nevertheless I was disturbed, because just a couple of years before I would have remembered it. It didn’t help when, within a few weeks of forgetting Fyvush Finkel, I blanked out on another name. This name, too, I had no strong reason to remember, although I’d seen it several times.

Dick is a huge basketball fan, and basketball seems to be available about nine months of the year. At times there are two or three games a day on TV in our house. While I like the occasional game, I find the buzzers and whistles distracting and mostly avoid the TV. I’m familiar with some of the commentators I occasionally come across, such as Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley. On NBC at this time, there was a third gigantic man on the half-time show whose name appeared on the bottom of the screen as a credit. The name was very odd, and I certainly hadn’t heard of this man. About a day after I wondered who he was, I asked Dick. “You know that guy on NBC’s NBA half-time show, the one who sits next to Shaq? I assume he was a player but don’t know him. What can you tell me?”

“Who are you asking about?” responded Dick. “Uh, you know, uh, uh …” Nothing, no first name, no surname. Just as with Fyvush Finkel, I spent an agonizing day trying to recall the name, this time getting phonetically somewhat closer, thinking the first name started with a vowel and the last name with an F. No more luck. Finally, I Googled something like “NBC’s NBA half-time show commentator” and out came Adonal Foyle. This man with the odd name (which is probably what struck me when I read it on screen) had been an NBA player, which I could have guessed (the featured image shows him in his NBA player days).

Why I had such dramatic senior moments, practically one after another, at that time, I have no idea. Maybe the neurons that store last names beginning with “F” died, who knows? I think I remember these moments so clearly because they were the first, and therefore novel. Now that an occasional lapse doesn’t bother me as much, names normally come back to me within a few minutes–distinctly slower than in my 30s–but they do come back. Fyvush Finkel and Adonal Foyle now bring a smile to my face, as I encounter any new senior moments with greater equanimity than those first two.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    I am amazed that you put together the two Finkels at all! Not finding keys, glasses, or phone is rampant, even among non-seniors, always a reassuring excuse. Having a partner in life who has lived through similar times can be helpful—communicating with “You know, the one on the boat” can work even if neither remembers the name.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    This sounds way too familiar, Marian. I understand entirely the lack of ability to quickly access words (I feel it every night as we watch Jeopardy). And I, too, can’t access (or maybe remember in the first place) names the way I used to. I try to repeat the name once I hear it (that was a good trick 30 years ago). Alas, it no longer helps.

    Hang in there. We’re all in this together.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Great story, Marian. It so perfectly captures the senior moments we all encounter every day. But give your self a bit of a break, as those names are quite unusual. I have already forgotten them (LOL).

  4. I love that line, “In writing this story, I wonder why it is that I remember so vividly what I didn’t remember…”!

    The names you’ve mentioned forgetting are somewhat unusual names, as are those mentioned in other stories on this prompt. That probably makes them easier to forget. I have the same problem with the actor Sterling Holloway. I really love his gravelly voice — he voiced Winnie the Pooh, among many others for Disney — but for some reason I find myself unable to remember his name whenever I try. I come up with Sterling Hayden and, for some reason, Sebastian Cabot…but most often Ichabod Crane, which is NOT a character he voiced but rather a character he happens to look like.

    • Marian says:

      I love how the brain works, Barb, and I find our mental filing system fascinating. Interesting how you went to the visual. I knew two men, one named Bill Bridges and the other Bill Boggs. Both were white, about the same height and weight, and had gray hair. Despite my liking one and not liking the other, I would get their names mixed up. I concluded that they were stored in my brain somehow close together.

  5. Suzy says:

    Mare, as soon as you started talking about Elliot Finkel and his father, I yelled out “Fyvush Finkel!” I had no idea he had a son who was a pianist, but I so loved Fyvush on the show Picket Fences, and remembered his name precisely because it was so unusual. I figured if you didn’t come up with it, I could text it to you. But you got it from Google.

    I frequently have those conversations you described with my husband, but usually he is the one who can’t remember a name, and then the question is whether he can give me enough clues so that I know who he is talking about. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. From now on, I will be more conscious of the names he and I do or don’t remember, in case they have something in common (like yours that both started with F).

    • Marian says:

      I had a feeling you’d remember Fyvush Finkel, Suzy, and until I met Elliot on the cruise, I had no idea about his family. It was so odd having those major senior moments in proximity. Although occasionally I have slow retrieval, I haven’t had anything quite as dramatic since Finkel and Foyle.

  6. My late uncle Sol Frieder was an actor and good friend of Fyvush Finkel and we met him through Sol at least once.

    I wrote about Sol in my Retro story Minyan.

    It’s a small world Marian!

  7. John Shutkin says:

    This sounds awfully familiar to me, Marian, as well as to my wife. In fact, we keep a list — when we can remember it — of certain names — a New York law firm, a flower — that one or the other of us has a hard time remembering. And we have also speculated that perhaps it has something to do with the first letter of the name, but whoever knows. We’ve done no research.

    For the record, our current problem name is that of an Australian series we have been streaming and enjoying called “Offspring.” At least I remembered it just now.

    • Marian says:

      What a great idea to keep a list, John. I’ll have to try that. Congrats for remembering “Offspring.” I can see why that one is tricky. As I mentioned in a comment on Jeff’s story, I was awake last night trying to remember “Melissa Etheridge” for some strange reason. Took a while, but it finally popped in my mind.

  8. Jeff Gerken says:

    We are all getting there.

    One of my first “name remembering” incidents, however, happened during my sophomore year. One of my roommates, who shall remain nameless except for initials, would lie in bed at night yelling, in his sleep, “I am S__D___” repeatedly.

    One weekend that year, a young woman from Central Ohio flew to Boston to see me. (As it turned out, her main reason for coming east was to score some weed to sell back home – I was just a convenient reason to get away from the mid-West.)
    I brought her to the room in W- house and started to introduce her to my roommates. When I got to S___D___, however, I completely forgot his name! This, again, was the same roommate who constantly shouted out his name in his sleep.
    That roommate, by the way, has never put an entry into any of our RedBooks.

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