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Saturday, 8 August 2015

My younger brother

Nick's new "home" is 239 miles away - a Hell of a round-trip and my visit might not mean anything to him. That's the way it is with Alzheimer's.

I was warned he had deteriorated but I have only one stratagem anyway: to offer him comical memories of our brotherly lives. A faint smile and perhaps something's happening.

This time I was joined by Nick's daughter Katie, with her one-year-old son Arthur. Katie lives nearer and has for years borne the direct horrors of her father's decline. She brings me up-to-date in her matter-of-fact way. Can saints be matter-of-fact? Surely it's the essence of sainthood.

Nick doesn't recognise any of us.

As Katie, for the hundredth time, tells Nick who Arthur is and how old, I listen. Nick's responses bear no relation to what he's heard. Also, while he can use verbs his vocabulary of nouns is almost non-existent. Thus his replies fade away.

So I copy Katie: I use yeses and nods as if Nick were making sense then remind him of our mother's dog Kim, Nick's dreadful days at public school and sailing in Takista - all with joky twists. It takes an hour for him to get used to me but occasionally there's a slow ghost of smile.

When I leave I ask if he knows who I am. "You're Rod," he says. Katie says afterwards it was a good moment.

The following day I visit a friend who worked on the same newspaper and with whom I share many interests. I arrive at 11.30 am and we get up for dinner at 6.45 pm, having talked solidly in between. Alzheimer’s is not only wretched, it can be ironic.

6 comments:

Blonde Two said...

An all too familiar picture here, for us it is my mother in law; your description has moved me.
There are not many things in this world that make me ask the question, "Why?" but Alzheimers is one of them.

Lucy said...

Verbs but no nouns, things are evaporating, everything in a state evanescent flux, a terrible negation. But you recreated matter out of energy, out of wisps of memory and perception, so his brother became a solid, living form again, if only for a little time. Worth doing, well done.

Ellena said...

Yes to Lucy.
The "good moment" is his unforgettable gift to you.

Roderick Robinson said...

Blonde Two: It's peculiarly difficult to see Alzheimer's belonging to a world that calls itself Christian. There's a case to be made for saying that the malady is akin to having fragments of one's soul removed day by day.

Lucy: I have heard it said that post-Alzheimer X is no longer X. But I am not able to do this with Nick. Don't want to. I still have the gift of articulacy and sympathy and it is my duty to use both in ways that ensure I see him as I've always seen him. It's difficult but it's up to me to do what he no longer can do.

Ellena: At the time I was simply surprised. Later it became more than that.

Avus said...

A dreadful disease, RR and one we could all be susceptible to. One just hopes it will not be me or my loved ones. I suppose, if it is me, I shall no longer be aware of it all anyway, but that leaves the others to bear the care, sorrow and frustration.

Hamlet's "To be or not to be" comes to mind.............

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