Thursday 18 July 2019

Before his death, my Dad had suffered from dementia for about 15 years. From beginning memory lapses when he forgot who people were, or lost track of where he had been driving to, he continued to lose more and more of his grasp on the present, until he only occasionally knew who we were or what was going on around him.

   His illness worried me. Who I think I am has always been built around reading, writing, researching and analyzing. What would I do – who would I be – if I was alive, but not able to do those things, anymore? No physical illnesses seemed as bad to me. I have to admit, I watched for signs as I grew older.

   My first scare came about 20 years ago. I was at our camp in northern New Hampshire, and was starting the 20-mile drive to do the week’s shopping. I planned to stop and visit with a friend, whose name was…. I didn’t know! Nothing came to mind. I couldn’t say a first name, or a last name, or even guess at what initial either might start with. All the way into town, I worried over the name, but there wasn’t anything there. I remembered her shop assistant’s name, but not hers. I think I finally got it just about the time I got to her store.

   That wasn’t the start of anything; it was probably months before anything like that happened, again. Then, occasionally, I found that people and place names would suddenly desert me, then come back an hour or so later. I would go to the refrigerator, and forget why I was going. I would be about to say something momentous, but the thought would vanish before I got my mouth open. My vocabulary had seemed limitless; suddenly I couldn’t come up with even one good synonym. My spelling – previously of spelling bee-winner quality  - wasn’t.

   Are you waiting for a punch line? There isn’t one. Twenty years later, I continue to have what some call “senior moments,” but that’s all they are. I have to work a little harder to find the words to make my writing interesting, but I can still do it. Crossword puzzles are not as easy as they once were, but I still stick to the hard Sunday New York Times puzzles, and do pretty well. I’ve almost reached the age at which my father died, and I’m still “okay.”

   But that doesn’t mean that I still don’t worry a little bit.

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