Everyone who knows anything at all about dementia or Alzheimers disease knows that it robs people of their memories. The given is that it breaks down mental function and retention. People with the disease lose names, their history, knowledge of their family, and even much of themselves. That’s not the only problem though. Dementia doesn’t only affect their memories and the past. It affects their loved ones and memories yet to be made.
I’m starting this blog on the way back to Atlanta from Seattle. My wife’s parents just celebrated their 50th anniversary. We were extremely fortunate to be able to gather as a family in one place and celebrate the occasion. None of our individual families are very big but we made a nice crowd when it all came together with ages from eight to nearly eighty. One of my wife’s cousins just graduated from college. Another was there with her boyfriend. The eight year old keeps growing up faster and faster. I met one of my father-in-law’s brothers for the first time and got to see his sister whom I’ve known for years. The anniversary celebration itself was especially nice. Overall, we had a great time in what was a rare situation.
Last December was the last time we were together and that was for my younger son’s bar mitzvah. That was another terrific time which felt a bit too short. In the blogs posts I wrote around that then, I made reference to my father’s legacy and what it meant to me. He wasn’t able to attend the weekend’s events and wouldn’t have been able to absorb what was happening if he were there. That framed many of the memories I made then and clearly they were much different than if he were with us and fully functioning .
Just last month was my parents’ 49th anniversary. Next year will be number fifty. I know that they’d love to have an event like the one my in-laws just enjoyed. That’s not going to happen, of course. My father’s overall health remains good but he’s not capable of grasping what the moment would mark. He would probably be able to identify maybe a quarter of the people who would be there. In all likelihood, he couldn’t even recognize himself in the slideshow I’d make.