With Alzheimer’s in your blood, there is of course little you can do (beyond, I guess, becoming a guinea pig, but I’m not frying my brain early for false hope). But you’d be a fool if you didn’t try and think how you might make it easier for those around you. One of things mean letting go of certainties. Maybe, if you got yourself to a point where you were comfortable and used to allowing for doubt in your own convictions — I think, particularly, of all the times my mother was sure a thing had been in a certain place, or that one of us had clearly moved said thing and lied about it — maybe, if you were already in the habit of stopping and asking yourself if you were really so sure about X, Y, or Z, maybe you’d be less…awful…to people around you.
Except, when I try and go through these motions, it feels like a lot of that work is already done. I already question a shit ton of stuff. For good or ill, that’s what an education captained by people of a Foucaultian bent will do to you. Is this really this way? Am I really capable of seeing outside this box I’m in? Stuff like that.
But these aren’t the sort of things my mom would go off on us about. She never fought with us over existential questions. She remained wise and self-questioning about that stuff right up until the disease took over the ability to think down those roads. But I don’t generally find myself accusing people of misplacing objects or, worse, deliberately sabotaging my plans. (And I mean, my mom wasn’t a bitch before Alzheimer’s, so maybe that’s not something you can avoid. Maybe those almost paranoid convictions come with the territory, and no amount of self-prep beforehand can spare those around you.)
The only convictions I have left, then, that I stick to, are emotional convictions. And those…I don’t want to give those up. I never feel unrooted in my relationship, for example, or regret marrying the guy despite being a bi woman. I don’t moon over what could have been, or…feel like I should? There isn’t some other life I wish I were living. Surely, if I can remember that–hang onto that rootedness–I won’t devolve into the kind of accusatory vitriol that so defined my grandmother’s experience with the disease?
And see, I allow myself to hope that I could be harmless, and not hurtful, but my mom was in the same position I’m in. She’d had this amazing life and travelled all over and none of it had gone the way she thought it would as a teenager, but she was happy. She wasn’t harboring some gendered BS from the 50s, that had stymied her from living the life she felt she was meant to. And all this still happened. And my dad still stumbled around the guarded, gated Alzheimer’s facility, blind and crying, because he couldn’t see his wife or hear her accuse him of doing the only thing that would keep her safe. And now, people still talk about how much time she has left like it’s an anchor chain waiting to rust away, after which they’ll sail free.
How can I allow myself to become an anchor around the necks of the people I love most? Forcing them to long for my death as a kind of release from the long nightmare of Alzheimer’s?
I know, I know, there’s no answer anyone wants to hear. But I’ve allowed or coached myself to let go of most certainties in life. There isn’t any reason for me to rot around long enough to break everyone else’s certainties, of love and of their worthiness of it, if science or the law (or chance, I suppose) finds a way around that long, miserable road for me.