*how ironic that two years ago, on this date, I wrote an entry about Barb!
IT'S RIGHT ON THE TIP OF MY TONGUE
14 August 2005
"My brain doesn't work right, you know," she said, tapping the side of her head, with a smile on her face.
It was many years ago and we were in the kitchen of my aunt's home in Reno. My aunt was always laughing, always had something funny to say, wrote wonderfully witty tomes, and we teased her for being crazy.
I thought she was making another one of her jokes.
In the years that followed, however, it seemed she was more insistent than ever that her brain "didn't work right." She began to be more withdrawn than she had been before. No longer was she the life of the party who would whip off her blouse and prance around in her bra, to the laughter of the rest of the family.
The last time she told me that her brain didn't work right was at a family reunion. Later that same reunion--or maybe it was the next one--she had a terrible fight with her daughter, over something that had never happened. That was when we all realized that she really was suffering from Alzheimers and was on a one-way road and there was no turning around. Its onset was slow, but steady, inevitable.
Now she lives in an Alzheimers facility. She's happy, she's well adjusted, sometimes she recognizes people, other times she doesn't. She doesn't know that her husband died several years ago--most of the time she seems to have forgotten he existed at all.
They say that people with Alzheimers tend to live longer because they live a stress-free life. I suppose that's some sort of trade-off, albeit a poor one, for losing your ability to recognize the people you have loved and cared for all of your life, for losing all memory of the years you have lived up to this point.
I had an e-mail from my editor yesterday, sharing with me an e-mail he had received from someone, correcting the spelling of the name of an actor in my latest review. The letter surprised me because I knew very well what the actor's name was. It's not that difficult to know the difference between "Mac" and "Max," especially since he was one of the performers I liked a lot in the production. I had double-checked the review for spelling errors, to make sure all the names were correct.
Things like this scare me because I find that the older I get the more mistakes like this I make. I sometimes read back over one of these journal entries and am amazed at the kinds of mistakes I've made. Not just typos, but completely different words. In my head I was thinking one thing, something else entirely came out my fingers. I do a lot of editing before I actually send out a notify.
Then there are the lapses in memory. Like I hit a slick spot in the brain-road where there used to be something and now there is just nothing. What's especially scary is when I forget the same thing three times in the same 15 minutes. It's like I can see it in my subconscious, but I just can't quite bring it into consciousness. Then, some 10 minutes or so later, it suddenly pops into my head.
I was writing to Peggy the other day about Taylor, the little girl who used to live next door to her. We've talked about Taylor a lot. I've sent her Christmas presents and she visited several times when I was staying with Peggy. But when I came to write down her name, it just wasn't there. I thought and thought and thought and simply could NOT come up with the name.
About 5 minutes after I finally sent off the e-mail, the name popped into my head.
This may be just a normal aging thing, or is it the very early signs of Alzheimers? Is it that my "brain doesn't work right?" I honestly don't know. People my age tell me they experience the same kinds of things, but it scares the heck out of me when it happens.
Before Barb contracted Alzheimers, I could say optimistically that there was no history of it in the family. In fact, my aunt often asked my mother why this was happening to her when nobody else in the family suffered from it.
My mother points out that everyone else in the family died of something else before they got to the age where Barb's Alzheimers began to be undeniable, so who is to say whether or not they would have developed it if they had lived longer.
They haven't perfected any test which will determine whether or not someone is likely to contract Alzheimers yet. Would I want to take such a test? I don't think so. Knowing that there is, at this point, no cure for it, I think I would rather enjoy life as it is now, knowing that I have just as much possibility of being hit by a bus before symptoms develop.
But then I hit one of those slick spots in my brain again and I can't help but thinking that my brain "doesn't work right" and try not to give in to some sort of a panic, imagining a worst case scenario somewhere down the line.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Note: There is a new
movie up, about Bud...