I have come to suspect that I am not alone as far as wanting to escape the entire notion of Alzheimer’s. Who wants to believe that at the end of their days, one might become totally unlike what they have striven all their life to become. Who likes contemplating not remembering to match their clothes, brush their teeth (or put their dentures in), when to do “the basics”, who the heck all these people are nattering about, “remember me, mom?”, know who I am, love?”, “I’m not your mom, dear. I’m your wife!”. Yeeminy, crickets!
I was reminded on Saturday, how vehemently I fought to believe my father was merely depressed whenever the family brought up that they believed at the nursing home he “might” have Alzheimer’s. After all, we had a clear history of depression in the family (on the female side and we all know how men are always in denial). Case closed. He wouldn’t take the medication either way.
All that considered, perhaps you won’t find it surprising, I’ve needed considerable help interpreting how these warning signs really show up when I’m squarely involved in the ramifications. Now that I’m no longer in the bloom of my youth, (I just stepped over yesterday), I haven’t so much invested in my own uniqueness. I realize now, if I have trouble “getting it”, there are likely others who do, as well.
Loss of Memory seems quite straightforward, doesn’t it? Remember, I had been out of state for 10 years. As I had divorced her son, quite a few years went by with my either not seeing Maxine, or seeing her very briefly when I did. She had told me when I was pregnant with our first child that I was not to “count on her to babysit, at all”, and as a consequence her grandchildren barely knew her, and understood she did not find them interesting to talk to or be around.
Maxine is extremely social, even now at age 89, in a specific way. She loves to be seen and admired and has always been a “looker” (meaning she “looks” great) and a charmer. She loves (literally soaks up) attention. She sacrificed her teeth early on in her life, having deemed them too “small”. The replacement teeth have always meant (truly) a drop dead, gorgeous smile. I have seen her turn it on me with every flirtatious nuance any practitioner of the female arts would envy and it never fails to pierce my most negative mood. She has no interest in listening, but knows well when to intersperse her most repetitive litany with that smile, so as to derive maximum mileage from another’s time.
It’s my observation that most people who encounter Maxine end up giving her enough time that she gets through, at minimum, half a dozen of her litany of stories. This is a clue folks, or, at least I think it is. It actually took me months and paying close attention to comments others made to me, once they became used to me as the one person always with Maxine, to realize Maxine never remembered having told those very same stories, in basically the same order, to those same people. Those particular stories, looked at individually, often seemed to have blatant indicia of loss of memory inside them, as well. Maxine does not really seem to care whether or not she shares her stories with friends, relatives, acquaintances or strangers, and honestly, I would have preferred to have only heard them once, as opposed to the dozens of times (in the last eight months) I feel I have been subjected to them. The clearest (or most obvious to family) example of memory loss within one of her stories is when she strives to explain the order of her four marriages. It demonstrates again, also, clear inability to use reasoning and logic.
It presents a mind-boggler to her son, and a grave irritation to me, that it makes no compelling argument to her that the man she was married to for nearly four decades, who fathered the only two children that she has, was her second husband. She prefers the notion in her mind that her third husband, whom she met when she was sixty and after the both of them had raised their children and begun the eventual passel of grandchildren, was the man she had chosen second. She barely has a memory and a half of the children’s father.
So now you have it. You’ve been looking at a small snippet of how memory loss can look in one instance. There are uncountable additional examples, but perhaps this can suffice for now.