I am headed from the kitchen through the living room to the bedroom on a specific mission, but when I get there, Iíve forgotten why I cameójust for a secondóand then I remember that I want to pick up my iPhone which I had parked last night on its charger which rests atop a radio clock that stands on a table beside my bed. Is this occurrence ominous? It happens perhaps once a day, in varying routines. Sometimes Iím headed to the kitchen from the study for a glass of water, and then have to think for a minute when I get there about why I came and what I want.
Perhaps this happens to all women and even men at 83, but I donít like it because it reminds me of my motherís fate. By the time she was my age, she didnít know much of anything, not only about time, but about where she was. And she had nine more years of not-knowingness before her death at 92.
Iíd rather be dead right now.
Still, while Iím doing the Sunday crossword, even when I have to go to Google to search for things totally out of my ken (usually new pop culture or most sports), I feel hopeful and try to remember what a psychologist told me once, and I am not quoting her exactly: Weíre all going to get it if we live long enough; only some of us are programmed to get it earlier than others. If weíre programmed to get it at 110, clearly we are more likely to die of other causes before then.
Yes, I found that heartening, not that I wish Alzheimerís on more people, but that perhaps the idea might allow me to free myself from the threat of my motherís fate.
Iíve also consulted a couple of doctors, asking for their opinions of the likelihood that I will succumb sooner rather than later to Alzheimerís, and have been at least temporarily comforted by their responses: not likely, one said, and not a chance, the other. Still, I canít eliminate the fear when a name canít come to my brain, though I know that if I wait, or if I run down the filing cabinet in my mindís eye, I will find the name. Sometimes I have to wait a few minutes; occasionally, more than that. But the name comes up in the end.
When I was seven, my grandfather taught me to read and write Yiddish and to read Hebrew. I could speak Yiddish then, and I learned to read and write it very quickly, perhaps within a month. It took longer for me to read Hebrew with the pace and the fluency he demanded. My grandfather died when I was 10 and Iíve had no lessons since.
Recently I joined the Jewish Community Center, chiefly, I thought, for the swimming pool, which Iíve been to twice already. But then I noticed that they offered Hebrew lessons, and I think Iíll register for them. Some additional insurance against the Alzheimerís blight? Probably. The fear is phobic, not easily evaded. Might just as well fight it on some level turf.