Today, I was working on a rent house—cleaning baseboards and repairing cabinet doors, among other […]

Blake I. Collier / 12.19.14

The-Missing-PieceToday, I was working on a rent house—cleaning baseboards and repairing cabinet doors, among other things—and I found myself needing a tool from my truck. I remember standing up and walking out of the door of the rent house and my mind just completely blanking out on the walk to my truck. The very reason why I was going to my truck in the first place vanished momentarily from my mind. Or, at another point, I found myself simply walking into another room and losing my train of thought. And, for whatever reason, the very recognition of this—my cognizance of these moments—just wore me down. I think, as the day went on, it even got to the point where I may have gotten a little cross with people that I interacted. They were very subtle, those emotional frustrations, but they were there.

This cognizance, though, has gone far beyond today. It has been something my mind has made remembrance of for weeks now.

Sitting down at my computer with an express purpose in my head and blanking out, staring at the screen for a good two to three minutes trying to recall what I was going to do. Or leaving a cup of paint out by mistake and finding it the next morning with that dried latex skim formed across the top. Something I had always been good about remembering to do…or what I remember about always being good at remembering.

It was back in October of last year when my dad’s diagnosis was confirmed as Alzheimer’s, the thought did sporadically cross my mind: there is a chance that this is inherited. I think in the year since then, my recognition of that possibility has grown more tangible, more real. I am starting to notice my own forgetfulness more and more as the days grow further and further from my dad’s diagnosis.

Now, all of this evidence—that I have become aware of in my day to day life—is a double-edged sword. I, like my dad, may have always been just a bit forgetful and just had not been aware of it before now. The Alzheimer’s diagnosis of my dad may have been the catalyst for me to actively notice my own forgetfulness more vividly. However, in the midst of this new cognizance, there is the other edge of that sword, the sharper one it seems. I have started searching for a proof-text that would reveal my very own fate. Seeking the phantom key that would piece together all of the clues that are present in my own activity and my own memory—the very things my family and I might have missed recognizing in my dad earlier on. In other words, whether I, too, will end up with Alzheimer’s or not. My mind has now started accusing and doubting itself. It checks off every thought and activity lost to the ether in the moments of every day.

Every single proof, every piece of evidence, is brought before my very eyes by my mind, a mind I am no longer sure I can completely trust. At least, the seeds of doubt have been planted by the mere suggestion of my own possible descent into this disease. Once that doubt becomes real—that it might be following a similar trajectory—that doubt is held up against all things thought and known. It is a vicious cycle.

puzzleBut there is no going back. Not now. My mind has already grasped hold and run with it; attempting to piece together a new reality, whether it is true or a mere ghost in the machine. All I know is that I am, now, very cognizant of my own forgetfulness, my blanking out, and my lost trains of thought.

The potentially uplifting side of this realization is that I am simply forgetful and I just had an imperfect understanding of that characteristic before. Literally, my mind is playing tricks on me. Or…

Maybe this is what my dad went through at one moment when he was my age. Maybe his forgetfulness became very real and tangible to him and he, too, came to this moment of realization. But, maybe, he decided to think nothing of it, a mere forgetfulness, nothing more. People forget stuff all of the time.

And that may have been the narrative, the reality, he held onto, no, clinched with sweaty fists. That is, until that explanation no longer could stand up against the monolithic truth, the grievous revelation that came crashing down on him last October. It might be possible that early glimpse, his mind proof-texting the evidence, was something more than mere momentary self-awareness. Maybe it was a precognitive foreshadowing of something much darker to come.

I don’t know. And that’s the problem. I am not a glass half-full kinda guy. Don’t think I ever have been or ever will be. The simple fact that my mind is cataloging all of this now since inheritance of ALZ has become a real possibility for me is a little frightening no matter how brave of a face I put on. The positive thinkers will look at this post and say, yeah, I suppose it is a possibility but as of right now, you just forget some stuff, no big deal. And though I am drawn to that resolution to the conundrum, it’s simply not possible for me to grasp. It’s easy for people who don’t have that knowledge right in front of them to say that, because the weight is not real to them.

But, by God, it is real to me. All I get is a nagging in the back of my head that says that it is in the realm of believability my dad had a similar conversation with himself at some point. And that, maybe, he grasped onto the positive spin on the endless cataloging of forgetfulness and blanking out. Yet I have never successfully been able to shut it off. And it is that very realization that occurred to me today:

alzheimers-disease-awareness-alzheimersdiseasesg-2-600-74506This is now my life. A life of second-guessing and distrusting a mind that may be on a slow path of decay or it may just be making me more aware of already existing traits in the light of my dad’s diagnosis. But. How am I to know? That’s the slippery part of this whole thing. To me, right now, my mind is nothing more than a big question mark of reliability. How can I trust the one thing that may be faltering, even now?

I suppose that is the nature of the potential of inherited diseases. If the possibility is there, the mind will start focusing in on the traits that affirm my presupposed self-diagnosis. Once again, that is even a positive way to look at it. It still holds out that the mind is making of the actual evidence more than what really is there and, really, it may just be a ghost. A phantom that will never actually exist. But, then, there is the very real possibility of actual inheritance and, then, the mind’s focus becomes a lot more like a revelation, a slow descent into a reality where nothing and no one can be trusted, because prior knowledge and recognition isn’t there anymore.

I don’t know fully what my dad is going through right now. But, on days like this, I wonder if my dad and I, in our own timelines, may have found ourselves in similar moments of recognition and revelation about who we are, where we are going and what narrative we are going to hang onto to survive.

I wonder if my dad, too, at some point, thought that maybe the forgetfulness was something more and maybe the thought crossed his mind, like it has mine, of finding himself older, alone and isolated with a mind he can’t trust and no one to grab on to when everyone becomes a stranger. I have stood in the middle of rent houses, dead in my tracks, and had that thought, that very real feeling. And the world suddenly got much colder. And more gray.

But, still, I wonder if he had that same thought at some point in his life. Because, at least, in it’s own way, I know that we are, at least, together in that trajectory.