About Me

My photo
Spokane, WA
This profile photo is my mom and me at the beach--she is 26 and I am about 18 months. LOVE the joy!! I am a mom of three and a teacher; being a teacher means I have to go back and cut the f-bombs. There were a few. Because Alzheimer's sucks badly. This blog, for nine years now--skipping a few while I was too cheap to buy my domain name-- helps me un-peel and process the endless layers of sad woven with weird and--impossibly--comedy.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Why "Still Alice" made me cry in the fetal position (no, but read it, really)


A few years ago, my book club decided to read "Still Alice." This was during my mom's rapid decline, but I thought, Hell, it's just fiction, and if it's done well, then my friends will understand more about what I'm going through. Or, I mean, my mom.

During the book discussion, I was all quiet and kind of pulled into myself. We were, I swear to God, wrapping up the "conversation," and the discussion leader, or maybe one of my closer friends said, tentatively, "Lisa, did you have any perspective you wanted to share?"

Who? Me? I got shaky, and then a little woozy and then very sobby and..I am pretty sure I shared a lot, and every one was crying and I don't remember what was said. I was, as they say in the news business, a little "too close to the story." 

And yes it is fiction, but incredibly realistic fucking fiction, and the theory I had about an active and stretched mind being less susceptible to Alzheimer's?(I'm very different than my mom in that way) That was blown to Hell because the main character was a professor at Harvard. 
I understand there is a convent somewhere in which all the nuns did crossword puzzles and sudoku and lived, without dementia, until age 100. But I'm not a nun, and I'm hoping Words with Friends will qualify. 

Here's a powerful excerpt I think about a lot. And I watched it happen with my mom. She forgot how to talk on the phone one day. 

I think it captures this particular brand of horror (the first stages of Alzheimer's..when it begins to thieve the humanness) beautifully, and it makes my chest hurt.

You can order it here: Or better yet, at a local bookstore.http://www.amazon.com/Still-Alice-Lisa-Genova/dp/1439102813

“She typed: Alice, answer the following questions:

1.     What year is it?
2.     Where do your live?
3.     Where is your office?
4.     When is Anna’s birthday?
5.     How many children do you have?

            “If you have trouble answering any of these, go to the file named “Butterfly” on your computer and follow the instructions there immediately.”

She clicked on “Butterfly”.

Dear Alice,

            You wrote this letter to yourself when you were of sound mind. If you are reading this, and you are unable to answer one or more of the following questions, then you are no longer of sound mind.
1.     What year is it?
2.     Where do your live?
3.     Where is your office?
4.     When is Anna’s birthday?
5.     How many children do you have?

            You have Alzheimer’s Disease. You have lost too much of yourself, too much of what you love, and you are not living the life you want to live. There is no good outcome to this disease, but you have chosen an outcome that is the most dignified, fair and respectful to you and your family. You can no longer trust your own judgement, but you can trust mine, your former self, you before Alzheimer’s took too much of you away.
            You lived an extraordinary and worthwhile life. You and your husband, John, have three healthy and amazing children, who are all loved and doing well in the world, and you had a remarkable career at Harvard filled with challenge, creativity, passion and accomplishment.
            This last part of your life, the part with Alzheimer’s, and this end that you’ve carefully chosen, is tragic, but you did not live a tragic life. I love you, and I’m proud of you, of how you’ve lived and all that you’ve done while you could.
            Now, go to your bedroom. Go to the black table next to the bed, the one with the blue lamp on it. Open the drawer to that table. In the back of the drawer is a bottle of pills. The bottle has a white label on it that says FOR ALICE in black letters. There are a lot of pills in that bottle. Swallow all of them with a big glass of water. Make sure you swallow all of them. Then, get in the bed and go to sleep. Go now, before you forget. And do not tell anyone what you’re doing. Please trust me.

Love,
Alice Howland
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            She wanted to print it out but couldn’t figure out how to make that happen. She wished her former self, she before Alzheimer’s took too much of her away, had known to include instructions for printing it out.
            She read it again. It was fascinating and surreal, like reading a diary that had been hers when she was a teenager, secret and heartfelt words written by a girl she only vaguely remembered. She wished she’d written more. Her words made her feel sad and proud, powerful and relieved. She took a deep breath, exhaled, and went upstairs.
            She got to the top of the stairs and forgot what she had gone up there to do. It carried a sense of importance and urgency, but nothing else...”

Thoughtful young me

Thoughtful young me

Seventies chicks

Seventies chicks
Me and my mom Lynn, 1973

Followers