Monthly Archives: November 2012

Alzheimer’s Medicine

Election fever has got me vacillating wildly between kooky elation and serious thoughts of expatriation to outer-space.

You know all those period movies about the British upper-classes? When they show them eating breakfast, it’s always the same: a husband and wife sitting at opposite ends of a long table on their puckered backsides politely tapping one poached egg. What’s up with the lone poached egg? Why just one each? Eating a lone poached egg in a fancy porcelain cup seems to denote wealth. Is that what this is all about? Who gets to eat the egg? It’s so sad.

In the Bury (short for Roxbury) as we affectionately call the ‘hood ’round these parts , we eat breakfast in front of the tv. And I am cracking open two, count them two, eggs! Hard-boiled, that is. Now, tv in the morning is a kind of sin for me, but the husband likes it, so fine.

The news-people appear predictably chipper and manicured, numbing us through their pretty shallowness to the effects of the world. How do they pull it off day after day? Coming up next, a story about how scientists may be able to predict Alzheimer’s twenty years prior to the onset of symptoms. Various brain scans appear that ominously suggest, this might be your brain. The doctors can decipher these brain squiggles, which you, stupid average person, cannot. Then, if you have the diseased brain, they put you on several evil medications to help combat your inevitable doom. Have a nice day!

My first thought was, well, how fortunate for the drug companies. They can start making money off of Alzheimer’s patients twenty years in advance!

My second thought was, I hope Blanche doesn’t see this, but of course she will. She and her partner are those people over sixty that still read several newspapers every day including the big fat ones on Sunday. She’s probably clipping the article right now.

Blanche is my mother and her mother, Tilly (xoxox) died of Alzheimer’s. Blanche has been paranoid ever since that she will also manifest the disease. So, she goes to extremes to keep her mind sharp. One day I walked in on her practicing Arabic with a deep voice from a tape recorder. Ahlan WasahlanNow repeat: Ahlan Wasahlan.

The commercial came on and we had to go vote, so I never did get to see the squiggles on an Alzheimer’s brain versus a non-diseased brain. The voting process went quickly and smoothly. I love the feeling of camaraderie on election day even though I saw a Romney bumper sticker on the way there. I was like, oh hell no, he must not know where he at. This is the Bury, sucka!

One of the questions on the ballot was whether or not to make assisted suicide legal for terminal patients. I was all for it, but then wondered, in the case of Alzheimer’s, how would the patient know? When you can no longer remember to go to the bathroom, asking for a fatal dose of drugs is a stretch. What would I do with Blanche if it came to that? I imagined my own brain. Maybe its squiggles were already veering dangerously off course.

That’s when I hatched a plan for an Alzheimer’s “medicine” of my own. My medicine was not designed to delay the onset of symptoms but to induce them immediately.

On the way up to the park with Chulo, I imagined I was in its early stages, just forgetting little things here and there, like leaving the stove on or driving on the wrong side of the highway.

I was reduced to pure sensation: the morning light streaming through the leaves of the great beech, the game of chase between a cardinal and a chickadee, the cold wind against my face and my fingers going numb. I just experienced each thing without thought or the burden of memory and without wondering what was coming next.

After awhile in the park, my medicine started to work too well and I couldn’t remember if I’d walked up or drove up after dropping my husband off at work as I sometimes do. My squiggles straightened themselves out once again into their customary pathways and all the little details of what I had to do came rushing back in. I had walked to the park after all.

I have a habit of seldomly remembering the good things. I dwell on the bad things, the things that I did that make me cringe. I think if I re-live those things often enough, I will pay some kind of penance and finally be cleansed, but it never works that way. I am not cleansed through remembering even long after I’ve learned the lesson and received the gift of some past mistake. I guess just recognizing that is a gift in itself.


On the way back home to our little apartment with the year-round Christmas lights, I pretended that I was blind for a few seconds before crossing the street.


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