In December, I read Still Alice.
Mostly, I bought it because I had a gift certificate and needed to buy a book to read and the premise looked - intriguing.
Alice Howland, happily married with three grown children and a house on the Cape, is a celebrated Harvard professor at the height of her career when she notices a forgetfulness creeping into her life. As confusion starts to cloud her thinking and her memory begins to fail her, she receives a devastating diagnosis: early onset Alzheimer's disease. Fiercely independent, Alice struggles to maintain her lifestyle and live in the moment, even as her sense of self is being stripped away.
When I put up a photo of the new books I'd bought - Codebreakers, Hans and Rudolf and First Love (which I am enjoying NOT AT ALL, James Patterson, I forgot how much your writing style IRRITATES ME), many people told me that Still Alice would haunt me, would break my heart, would stay with me a long time.
And I kinda brushed it off, kinda poo-poo'ed it and said to myself, It's just a book. I mean, I've read some really, really good books, and they don't hang around in mah brain forever (except, Outlander, et al - ADORE) and you know, it's probably just an exaggeration.
Nope. Not this book. Not Still Alice.
Everyone has memory lapses, right? I mean, this morning, while I was struggling to get everyone up/dressed/fed/medicated/out the door - I went upstairs to get the acne cream for one of my kids. This particular kid does NOT want to put the stuff on and so I have to be in charge of it - and yes, I know all about natural consequences and allowing said kid to deal with the reality of no acne cream= pizza face, but you fight the battles you fight and some of them you just don't fight and you just take over the forced application twice day of said acne cream and deal with it.
And I brought the cream downstairs and then promptly - I do mean promptly - LOST IT.
I mean, really, who does that? Carries something downstairs and then loses it?
I looked all over, too. I finally found it - but now, I can't even tell you where I found it.
And sometimes, I will think that I need to text someone, and in the time it takes me to get out my phone and open the texting app - I either forget who I'm texting or why I'm texting.
I have created habits for keys and glasses and my purse and all kinds of things - but I do find myself searching for things, and trying to remember more often than I like. I've been told that it's due to stress and an overload of information housed in my brain, because I really do have a lot to keep track of
but what terrifies me is that niggling thought - what if that's not the reason? What if I will have Alzheimer's? No one in my family, at least that I know of, has had it - but that's not a fail safe.
i have thought about ways the end of my life might come. Brain tumor, breast cancer, fire, automotive accident. They are all horrific, but Alzheimer's seems to me to be really and truly terrible, because you are losing - you. The very things that make you you - you no longer have those. You don't remember those who are most precious to you, the things that you hold deep inside just disappear. And can you still be you - would I still be Carmen - if I didn't remember I had six kids (who might make me insane but hello, there you go) and that I hate beets and I once fell from the tip top of a tree and spent a couple of days in the hospital? If I didn't remember laughing so hard I peed my pants (a little, I'm not INCONTINENT, y'all) at a family event, or couldn't remember taking care of my father inlaw and sister in law or remember that I dearly loved them both? What if I couldn't remember that I love my truck, am not an animal lover, that I went off roading at a Ford event with a helmet and a mask on, who my best friends are or that fish gives me hives?
What if I had no idea that I loved coffee, hated swimming and bike riding and old cars did things to my insides? I don't ever want there to come a day that I look at my great friends and don't know who they are, can't remember talking until 2 around a pool or texting frantically - or calling just because I'm in the car AGAIN.
I don't want to forget my husband and all of the fun times (and, yeah, ok, the annoyances too) that we've shared. The time he was stung by a sting ray and we thought he'd die - will that memory be erased?
Are you still you if you don't know you?