Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Forgetting

"Penny for your thoughts," says the man who loves me.  He's just blown the candles out, and we're lying in bed in the dark.
"What if we get old and forget any of this ever happened? What if Alzheimer's erases you and me and all I can remember is my marriage to Mr. Ex?"

This morning Don't let me forget this is the prayer  still mantra-ing in my brain when I wake.

I returned just yesterday from the east coast and the celebration of my mom and my aunt's 86th birthday.  My aunt has Alzheimer's. By now, she's forgotten that I was there.  On Sunday, the day after the party, she'd already forgotten the celebration, the presents, and the cake. "Yesterday was my birthday?" she asked as my mom, my other aunts, and my uncle, and I sat with her at the nursing home. "Well, happy birthday, Millie!" she said. She knows she can't remember things, but I don't know if she knows how much is missing.

I thought short term memory loss meant that you couldn't remember if you took your pills, fed the goldfish, or remembered to eat breakfast. Or maybe it meant that you couldn't recall the appointment you made with the cardiologist last week. But I guess short term memory is a relative concept. If you make it to 86, twenty years isn't so long. That's about how much my aunt seems to be missing.

I find it intensely interesting to visit her. So far she's always recognized me immediately. And she knows that I've come from California to see her.  I find it curious that she asks about my daughters, yet not Mr. Ex.  I always hold my breath a little bit after she asks, "How are the girls?" She cried when I told her about the divorce originally, and I would feel awful making her sad all over again. But Mr. Ex, it seems, has fallen into the chasm of Forgetting.

My aunt's husband died more than twenty-five years ago, and she used to love to tell the story of how he was "back-dated," as she called it.  He thought she was his sister. Unless she was on the phone with my mother (whom he never liked.) Then he'd call her by her right name and shout at her to hang up.  

Maybe memory loss is somewhat selective.  In those chunks of time that fall away, maybe the passionate dislikes and the great loves remain.  

If I make it to 86 and the Forgetting scythes out a section of years, I don't want to be left with Mr. Ex.

Please don't let me forget this.


Cecily said...

That is one of the news stories on the BBC website today. The numbers of people suffering from dementia is the biggest health issue facing the world. We are living too long!

Elizabeth said...

I most certainly won't. And don't forget -- NOW -- that we must make a plan to get together very soon!

pserean said...

Freud says you forget what you want to forget.
But I need to carry a paper with my banking details, so I don't hold much with that theory. Though maybe it's an unconscious desire to have someone Else's banking details at my disposal.

Anyways. Don't worry about it. If you do end with Mr. Ex living permanently in your head, you will most likely also forget that you hate him.


(sorry.i couldnt resist. though, as a fellow divorcee...i truly empathise on this one.)