After 31 years of careful observation and scrutiny, I have finally figured it out: my mother is a Narrator.
When anyone is within earshot, there is a non-stop monologue about whatever it is that is going through her head at the moment. Be it about the details of that recipe she heard about, what she wants to do with the trees in the side-yard, what vitamins I should be taking (a list, by the way, that hasn’t changed in 31 years but I still get to hear about it as if it were the first time), etc, etc.
This narration does not supercede all normal conversation, however. There is plenty of talking back and forth when there is a topic on-hand. Instead, this appears to be designed to fill the silences that most people bear without incident. I know what you’re thinking, “Just tune her out!” and oh that I would, but the Narration is a fickle beast and can quickly morph into a direct question or comment that I should have been paying attention to. Therefore, I emply the “Tune her down” tactic in which I reduce my attentiveness to just above following what’s going on, but no more.
I attribute my ability to follow multiple conversations at once to this, in fact. I’ve spent so mamy years only half paying attention that I am now able to subdivide my total volume of attention-ability to multiple things at the same time. That’s why, when we go to dinner, and we’re talking about something, I’ll suddenly answer a question you didn’t ask or make a comment about something you weren’t referring to. Some people call this eavesdropping. I call it multi-tasking.