My mother had Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, she died from Alzheimer’s. She simply forgot how to breathe. Forgetting how to breathe is different than forgetting ones car keys or wallet. It is not a lapse in cognitive acuity, but the purest sort of catastrophe, and quite unforgivable.
I cannot help but celebrate the fact, therefore, that forgetting to go to the bank today does not preclude going to the bank tomorrow. Forgetting a word is not the same as forgetting a language. I may sometimes forget what day it is, yet I retain my grip on the month, the year, the century, the eon.
What day is this?
I used to quiz my mom this way.
What day? Today.
But what day of the week.
Okay, what year, Mom. Do you know the year.
She had never gotten past the turn of the century. She always answered 2000, even if you were asking her what year she was born.
Who is the President of the United States?
She had never gotten past Roosevelt, either. He had made such a vital and lasting impression in her life, and in the lives of many in her generation, that he had risen finally to the status of the eternal. The Eternal President of the United States of America, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In the end, all she knew were the numbers one, two, and three, which she repeated over and over again, even in her sleep.
One, two, three; one, two, three; one, two, three ….
What the hell?
When it comes to diseases, my mom sure as shit drew the short stick. Or at least that’s how I feel about it. It’s like you have to reach into the grab-bag of life not knowing what you’re going to come out with. There’s a lot of serious crap in there. Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, leprosy (and these are some of the more pleasant among the possibilities).
You reach into the bag, closing your eyes, heart thumping, sweat forming on your brow. And you come out with …
Well bless my soul! Someone else gets the Old Maid, the Black Spot, this time around. Hallelujah, praise the lamb!
I am, as I said, saved by grace, smiled upon by the imp of chance.
At least until my turn comes around again.
One … two … three ….