My mom is a very kind, generous person, and has been very supportive throughout my adult life. She’s now 70 years old, though she doesn’t look quite that old. I got those genes I guess. I generally get guessed to be about 10 years younger than I am, just as she always has.
She was the Valedictorian of her class in High School (an academic title typically conferred upon the highest ranked student within the graduating class of an educational institution) and was Phi Beta Kappa (Phi Beta Kappa is generally considered the most prestigious American college honor society, and membership is one of the highest honors that can be conferred on undergraduate liberal arts and science students) at a prestigious university in Cleveland, Ohio, graduating with a Bachelors Degree, Summa Cum Laude. This is all to say, she’s smart. Really smart. Her identity comes from being smart. This is what she is known for.
So, what happens when a really, really smart person begins to lose their mental faculties? My mom is now diagnosed as being in the early stages of dementia, likely Alzheimer’s but they won’t know for sure until time passes and it’s seen to get worse or not. Her father, a research chemist, died with Alzheimer’s at the age of 82. In the last two years of his life he had no idea who his kids and grandkids were. Is this what my mom has to look forward to? How will she identify herself when she feels stupid because she forgets everything? How hard will it be for her to give up driving because she gets lost every time she goes out? How do her kids relate to her when she is no longer the smart woman they grew up with? I already don’t know how to relate to her anymore. Sometimes I feel I have to take care of her like a child. It feels like babysitting some days.
And, honestly, I’ve never even totally resolved my anger with her for leaving us when I was 5. Yes, my dad was cheating, she had good reasons to leave, and yes, she came back a few months later, but not to our apartment. She moved to a nearby house with strangers and it stunk of baby diapers, and then later an apartment with her crazy new boyfriend and his dogs. I forgive her, but I get angry for having to take care of her sometimes when I feel like she didn’t take care of me when she was supposed to. Sounds kind of dumb I guess, but there it is. It is what it is.
Also, if Alzheimer’s is genetic, what kind of dice have my brother and I rolled? This scares me greatly. I’m not terribly scared to die, but I’m terribly afraid to live without my senses. I’m praying there will be a cure or a vaccine or something before I get it. I probably have 30 years or less for this to happen. If not, well, it’s been nice knowing ya. Forgive me if I don’t know who you are.