Forget Me Not
The other day I came across this article in the NYTimes that really had me thinking, but I hadn't really had time to put my thoughts down about it. It's an editorial about the prevailing fear in America - ad indeed, the world - of Alzheimer's disease. The timing on this article was uncanny for various reasons, or perhaps I have also been caught up in this fear.
My very good friend Angry O is the son of a prominent Sudanese man back home. His father is very accomplished, very well educated, and by all accounts quite formidable. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's probably 2 or 3 years ago formally, though Angry O was noticing his slowly deteriorating state. They've been on the lookout for an experimental treatment of any kind to slow the progress of this disease but have had no luck. Days are good or bad, with periods of lucidity alternating with confusion, anger and lashing out. Angry O bears it patiently, and takes the load on himself. He is stronger than I imagine I would be in the same position, praying with his dad, prompting him to recite poetry, and talking about what's going on in the world. It's a tough position to be in and it frightened me at a level I hadn't thought it could. It made me think about ...
My Dad is my hero, and I don't mean that in the "I want to be a fireman" sort of way, but in a more substantial way. In some ways I have always wanted to be like him, and of course as I get older I find that I am more and more like him, more in fact than I wanted. He's older now, and more ornery than I remember, quieter as well. He forgets things, but you can never tell if he genuinely forgot or whether he's just being contrary, and forgetting things on purpose. He passes everything off with a smile or a smart aleck comment, so I'm left to wonder how much is bluster and how much is really forgetful. What if he forgets me?
What if I forget everyone? My memory has been bad for as long as I can remember but if you're forgetful that's not a very long time. It feels like it's gotten worse lately, but it's hard to say. So this article came at the "right" time. While the fear that it talks about does not take notice of the rarity of this disorder, it strikes at a universal soft point: without my memory, is it still me in here? And if it isn't then what does any of it mean?
This seems overwrought and it probably actually is, but it's something that keeps me up at night.