Friday, September 4, 2015

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It's hard to remember

When my mother-in-law came for a visit over the Easter break, she announced that she was interested in seeing Still Alice, a new movie playing in the cinema featuring the ever young Julianne Moore. She likes to do this, my mother-in-law. Her Southern politeness doesn't allow her the frankness of requesting to go see or do something on her visits. So, she prefers to operate passive-aggressively by announcing things that she likes and hopefully, I notice and suggest that we go watch it or go do something she wants.

Luckily for her, my mother is also passive-aggressive in this way. And I've learned to always be aware of subtle exchanges that might otherwise bypass my husband who can only be notified by blunt directness.

So, on the second weekend she was visiting, I took my mother-in-law to the cinema with my friend, Hazel. I didn't really know anything about this movie, but my mother-in-law had described it to me, saying, "It's about a brilliant Harvard professor who gets Alzheimer's." My expectations were low, but my mother-in-law mentioned several times that Julianne Moore had won the Oscar for her performance.

I've watched some Oscar movies that didn't live up to my expectations, but I had none with this movie. The movie began with Julianne Moore's character doing normal every day things. She went running, gave academic talks. And then she would forget the word for something. Or forget where she was going while on a run or what she was doing when she moved into a different room. She forgot the recipe for her daughter's favorite Christmas bread pudding. You get the idea.

It was a sad, tragic story of a smart, educated, successful woman in the prime of her life that gets struck down, robbed by the debilitating loss of her memories and her mind. As sad as this story was and as raw as Julianne's performance was, I was mostly preoccupied with worrying if I, in fact, also had early-onset Alzheimer's.

Every time Julianne played friends with words and forgot a word for something, I remembered all those awkward moments when I couldn't recall the word for something. Anything! Or even my friend's name.

When Julianne was giving a lecture and lost her train of thought, I wasn't feeling sorry for Julianne. I was worried about when I had lost my train of thought while talking to my friends at dinner the previous Saturday!

When Julianne went into a room and forgot where she was, I recall that my children often find me aimlessly milling around a room.

"What are you doing, Mom?"

"Errr. I am just hanging around. I was supposed to do something in here, but I can't remember what. But it seemed important. So, I'm waiting around. I'm hoping I'll remember if I see what it is that I was supposed to do." Eye rolls. Confused children wander away.

When I had my first child, at age 28, I attributed my memory loss to that funny thing they call "Mommy brain". I didn't really know what it was. It was just a funny term I had read in Parenting Magazine, which they mysteriously always somehow know to send you after you have a baby. "Haha. Must be my mommy brain!" I'd trill annoyingly if I forgot something. Or maybe, someone else would trill it annoyingly AT me when I forgot something. It's difficult to recall.

By the time I had my fourth baby seven years later, I had begun to compare my daily memory lapses to "mommy brain" but in a more sinister sort of way. Whenever my children would roll their eyes that I couldn't recall their names or where I had put their homework folders, I would remind that they, in fact, had all of my brains. I was fond of tell them that each child, while in utero, had taken some of my brains. It was as if my brain matter had been used to create each of their brains in a parasitic host relationship.

Obviously, the reason that they were each so smart was because I had directly given them some of my brain and I was thus impaired. At first, this sort of alien analogy was disturbing to them, but I think that they each readily came to accept this as fact. Luckily, I had previously had been so intelligent that it was practically a miracle that I had survived the generation of four humans and still had enough brain intact to operate as a human myself.

I forget my point.