There were plans. I swear. I was going to read stuff. Bake some other stuff. Have the holiday glowy thing going on. But it all failed, like the souffle I’ve never learned to make. No really, I want to learn to make a souffle some day…maybe when I’m eighty and have nothing better to do. Then my grandkids will come over and shake their heads at me.
My grandfather passed on the 26th. I’d known he was slipping further and further into the ether of Alzheimer’s, mind you. His body was slowly unraveling, slowly forgetting itself and its purposes. We’d watched him go from standing in the driveway with his keys, not knowing what he was supposed to do – to the same thing with a toothbrush – until finally, his own bio-neural functions forgot to keep working. It’s an inglorious, undignified way to go. It took my mother’s father as well. And both my grandmothers have some form of dementia or another. My sister (who is a biologist) and I have often commented that we feel like we’re staring down an abyss when we consider that statistic. It’s a compressed number. Even the national statistics can’t compare.
•5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease.
•One in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease.
The prevalence of dementia among individuals aged 71 and older was 13.9%, comprising about 3.4 million individuals in the USA in 2002. The corresponding values for AD were 9.7% and 2.4 million individuals. Dementia prevalence increased with age, from 5.0% of those aged 71–79 years to 37.4% of those aged 90 and older.
My dad’s dad was 92 when he died in Dec. My mother’s dad was 85 when he died back in 2005. They’d both lived long lives, yes. Varying degrees of satisfaction and joy, yes. Both had worked in extremely physically demanding positions – my dad’s dad had been a mechanic with an engineering degree (call it being susceptible to familial pressures) – mom’s dad had been a farmer all his life. They’d lived through the Depression, never having any major privations – the former went through the war working as an engineer at an aircraft factory – the latter as a machine gunner in the South Pacific. They both returned to their childhood homes afterwards, married the first and only women in their lives, and each had two children.
When I think about these men, I don’t remember being hugged and adored by them. That wasn’t in their playbooks. They preferred addressing us on terms of assumption that we were all at least as intelligent as they were. The biggest thing that got in the way of “getting to know” them was that they worked their brains out. They’d both head out the door to work around sunrise and come home around sunset. There was nothing else for it.
My grandmothers were always the storytellers. They each only seemed to tell their own stories, as well. That’s one thing I would change if I could – I’d have tagged along with my grandfathers, to the shop, or on the wheat fields, if only to hear them chat for once – without being interrupted, corrected, or scolded.
All the storytelling in my family was what gave me a sense of history, an appreciation for people who were long-dead. A sense of amazement at how two people could meet, and create a whole new universe in their own way – and that if just a few things had been different, I wouldn’t be sitting here, freezing on my couch. I’d still be a mote of cosmic dust.
I keep telling myself that this year HAS to be better, that it must get better…I know that I have to play an active role in that, obviously (and it doesn’t help that Downton Abbey, Psych, and Once Upon a Time are all imminently active again).
Later this week, I will be publishing a review of the book I read most recently, Susan Henderson’s Up From the Blue (and if you don’t run out and read it immediately thereafter, there’s no help for you!). I’m looking for a new contemporary author to read next – taking recommendations! – but I also have Martha Grimes’ Foul Matter, Edith Pargeter’s Brothers of Gwynedd, and The Hobbit to read, not forgetting Laurie R. King’s most recent Mary Russell installment either…there are never enough hours in the day!
So, how were your holidays? Did they live up to your sugar plummed dreams, or do you struggle a little like I do?