Thursday, March 27, 2014
I read a poignant post on March 18, 2014 from Sheila Blanchette about her mom's decline from Alzheimer's. Time is an Asterisk is a moving commentary on Alzheimer's impact on her interaction with her mother. She talks about the fickleness of memory for all of us. She recounts a recent visit with her parents and describes how Alzheimer's erosion of her mother's memory has impacted her conversations with her mother. "My conversations with my mother were even more unreliable, a dizzy, endless loop of repetition and confusion. The confusion was not just on her part, but on mine as well. Who is she talking about now? Where is she in time? Does she know where she is right now? And the biggest question of all, does she know who she's talking to? The answer to that last question was an emphatic no."
She describes "safe" topics of conversation and muses about not correcting her mom when she got something wrong. She tries to think about the confusion from her mother's perspective: "I can only imagine how frightening it must be, not knowing where you are or who you're talking to. Or to have a glimmer of the very big thing you just forgot, that this is your daughter sitting across from you. What it is like when Alzheimer's creeps in, distorting your memories and the very essence of who you are? How scary is that feeling? Because after all, who are we without our memories?"
After her parents' visit, she reflects on what losses will have occurred by the next time she sees her mother, and describes Alzheimer's as a "thief". She then writes about song lyrics, and how she misunderstood certain phrases in popular songs (haven't we all done that at some point). She writes about a song by the Talking Heads, where she thought they sang "time is an asterisk."
Ms. Blanchette goes on to tie together the song lyric discussion to the title of her post:
An asterisk is often used to show the omission of a letter, as in, "the f***ing Alzheimer's are knocking on the door." Or it can be used to indicate information a writer leaves out of an article but is providing in a footnote at the bottom of the page, in case the reader would like to learn more.
I am going to continue to sing my lyric every time I play that song, because when it comes to Alzheimer's time truly is an asterisk, editing the words and the memories, leaving only footnotes for the loved ones who fill in the missing information.