Sunday, April 18, 2010


A View through the Afloat Sculpture

We take for granted the fact that we know where we are and how we got there, both in space and in time. I realize more and more that dementia messes with Ted's ability to know. It reminds me of the classic movie story line where a character suffers amnesia. The plot involves their search to understand who they are and how they got there. However, dementia throws in some very different twists to the plot.

Some days Ted remembers much more than he does on other days. On the good days I think he remembers that he sometimes has bad days. But on the bad days, I don't think he can remember that he has good days. It doesn't even have to be a new day. If Ted thinks deeply about the very vivid memories he has from his childhood, it is almost as if he is reliving those moments. Then suddenly he realizes he is an old man in a place that is only vaguely familiar. The thread of life events that lead up to now has many broken spots and the pieces that do remain get jumbled out of order.

Sometimes I can help Ted by anchoring him with a few of the memories that so far are rock solid. Yesterday he could remember his boyhood and the farm, and he could vaguely remember that he went to college. But he had forgotten how he and Juanita had gotten together. He had forgotten that serving in the Pacific during WWII had interrupted his life.

I said, "I bet you remember being helped with finding the home keys in your typing class." He lit up immediately. That was a key event in his getting to know Juanita during high school Then I said, "I bet you remember standing behind a tree, trying to make yourself as small as possible as a Japanese plane strafed you". "Yes!" he said, "It's so vivid I remember every detail. I remember touching spots where the bark had been shot off the tree, but no bullets had penetrated to hit me."

I went on to recount such things as the fact that his college education had been interrupted by his military service. On the other hand, the GI bill made it possible for him to attend University of Illinois and finish his degree.

Eventually it was as if Ted had regained his footing following a particularly violent earthquake. He regained the sense that he was anchored in time and space, rather than adrift and helpless.

Of course, I wonder what the future holds. Will those most vivid memories fade away and leave Ted without an anchor? Yet I can only wrestle with what is. My view of what will be is too limited to spend much time thinking of.

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