Doña Quixote
March 21, 2014 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Thank you for posting that, zarq. Not at all easy to read despite how well written it was.
posted by YAMWAK at 2:59 PM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Getting old scares the living hell out of me.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:59 PM on March 21, 2014 [9 favorites]

You're very welcome.

Definitely not an easy read. I couldn't get the comments to load on my phone, but am really curious to know how Slate readers are reacting to it.
posted by zarq at 3:13 PM on March 21, 2014

This is a beautiful and terrible essay.
posted by Anonymous at 3:28 PM on March 21, 2014

("terrible" as in "inciting fear", not "terrible" as in "this is shit")
posted by Anonymous at 3:29 PM on March 21, 2014

During my father's decline these last few years (he died last October), I used the word "unlearning" to describe his disease progression.
posted by dhartung at 4:58 PM on March 21, 2014

That was lovely.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:24 PM on March 21, 2014

I can barely read this, it knots me up so much. Fuuuuh.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:25 PM on March 21, 2014

My father-in-law, who is currently living with us, has Alzheimer's. Every day is a new rollercoaster ride, a new look at his brain disappearing, and new insight into what remains. He was an operatic tenor. At times he sings beautifully and other times, I am quite sure he has forgotten the words and is singing nonsense to compensate. He gets angry because we cannot spend hours, uninterrupted, being his audience, because he has no idea how long he has been singing. He flies into fits of rage over the smallest slight, like interrupting a movie to tell him that dinner is ready, and yet he will go on for literally hours about how the peanut butter and jelly sandwich he had for lunch was the best sandwich he has ever eaten.

Unlike the author, he has relatively little insight into his disease. He doesn't believe he has dementia and he forgets any awareness of the disease almost as soon as it happens. We liken him to an etch-a-sketch, anything that happened today, or 15 minutes ago for that matter, is gone, as if it was never there.

Fortunately for him, he doesn't have much idea at all about how quickly he is deteriorating, but he also has no insight into how difficult this is for his wife and his son. I suppose there are advantages and disadvantages to this version of the illness, but sometimes I do wish he would go a little easier on his caregivers.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:23 PM on March 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

I can't read it. Maybe I'll try tomorrow. My dad was diagnosed with dementia last year. My sincere sympathies, dhartung and Sophie1.
posted by eggkeeper at 9:45 PM on March 21, 2014

Live while you can. Celebrate every good moment, every easy breath, every good night's sleep, every clear perception. Nothing is guaranteed.

I am not sure what terrifies me more, the gradual slide into darkness that is dementia, or staying so clear and lucid that one perceives the deterioration of age with growing horror. I have witnessed both and cannnot say which is worse.
posted by kinnakeet at 4:36 AM on March 22, 2014

This hits a bit too close to home. My great-aunt had a long and tortured pas-de-deux with dementia that mercifully ended last year. The worst part about it was that she was oddly fit at 93, but holy crap her mind was on a five minute loop.

She wasn't a writer or anything like that, she was a textile buyer for the mill my Grandpa worked for at the time, he left, his sister stayed. Never married, no kids, just her job and house, great grandma lived at her house the last ten years of her life.

My immediate family and I are seeing nascent symptoms in my mother, and it's terrifying. We're going to be forced to take the car keys away from her sooner than later, and I can't imagine even bringing the subject up in conversation with her, let alone actually doing it. My brother thinks we just have to sabotage her car.
posted by Sphinx at 10:33 AM on March 22, 2014

posted by humanfont at 10:48 AM on March 22, 2014

Sphinx, I've done the keys issue twice now, it's hard, but there have been a number of accidents in L.A. by elderly drivers. One or two that actually killed people. We told my FIL that his wife could be sued if he hurt someone and she knew he was unable to drive. The other thing we did was cancel his insurance. That really stopped him from trying to drive as he's kind of a rules person.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:40 PM on March 22, 2014

This terrifies me. I rely very much on my "trick brain" as I call it. I remember details from decades ago, trivia, but also useful details for my various professions. I reach for a fact, and it's there are my fingertips - and I dread the day when this is going to start to fail.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:15 PM on March 22, 2014

Believe me, it's horrible. My mother has a rare form of early onset dementia. We've been very fortunate in terms of my family's ability to care for her, she has suffered far less than many people do - and it's still unbearably bad.

Whenever anything scary has happened to me lately - someone breaking in when I was home, other scary stuff - I remind myself that if I die right now I die in my right mind and without burdening my family. I've decided that if I get cancer, for instance, at a young age, I'm only going to seek palliative treatment - believe me, you are better off going in your right mind, even if it's early and sad.
posted by Frowner at 5:27 PM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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