By Crissi Langwell
When certain themes show up in my writing, it’s usually because I’m working them out in my real life. Alzheimer’s is no exception. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s before she passed away in 2010. I remember the last time I saw her. She’d kept her eyes closed most of the visit, almost as if she were ignoring all of us. When my aunt announced who was there, she opened her eyes when she heard my name.
“Well,” she said, one of the only words I heard her say that day. I’ll always remember that word from her, even the way she said it. That word let me know that she remembered me, even when she’d forgotten everything else.
Knowing my grandmother had Alzheimer’s, I sometimes wonder if this is my fate. Even at just 40, I’ve recognized a few holes in my memory. I blame it on the abuse I suffered in my first marriage and my memory’s protection by forgetting certain traumas. That forgetfulness has haunted me. A few years ago, I went for a run in my neighborhood, and then stopped when I realized I’d run to an unfamiliar street. Panic welled up inside me as I looked around, trying to make a connection to where I was. Everything seemed both strange and familiar, and I knew I was supposed to recognize my surroundings. As my clarity slowly returned, I realized I was only around the corner from my house, and I was on a street I’d been on many times before. The fact that I’d forgotten my own neighborhood was more jarring than actually being lost.
I may face Alzheimer’s again, whether through my parents, my relatives, or even in myself. It’s something many of us have to face. In the meantime, I work out my thoughts and feelings about Alzheimer’s through my characters, letting them make mistakes or figure out triumphs on my behalf, and hoping that someone else who is caring for someone with Alzheimer’s will find a friend in the story.
Crissi Langwell is a writer, blogger, and novelist. She has 9 published fiction and non-fiction books and lives in Northern California with her husband, their blended family of three teens and a ridiculous teenage dog. You can find her at crissilangwell.com.
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