Alzheimer disease is a terrible thing. Confusion is typical. Uncle Howard doesn’t know where he is. He has no idea. He walks around and stares out windows and down hallways. To me, it always seems he is hoping something or someone will come along and stir his memory. “Remind me.” He seems to say. Yesterday, I asked him if he knew my name and he asked for a hint. “What number does it start with?” he asked.
He went to Iceland in the early 80’s; he can’t remember anything about that trip. He does, however, remember going to Germany and marrying a German girl. That’s great except he never went to Germany and he didn’t marry a German girl.
Susan made a great observation I had never thought of. “It’s not that he forgets, it’s just that he can’t remember.” She said. I had to get a further explanation. It’s just that all newer information won’t stick at all. The more recent experiences were just floating around a few months ago; they’ve all finally slipped away. Lately, even his oldest memories are mostly unavailable. He tends to fill in the gaps by embellishing. I think he actually recalls events which never happened. He told me he had been married six times. He was only married twice. I’ve heard this is fairly typical too. The lapses in memory are like low places in the brain and they fill up with debris. The debris connects itself to the truth and it all runs together to make a complete story. As more of the original story fades, more tales develop to take its place. Eventually, you may have a complete fabrication without a trace of the original story.
Claude Collins is suffering from Alzheimer’s and a few other ailments associated with his age. His daughter and son-in-law are friends of mine. Claude was the proprietor of Collins Jewelry in Mableton. I’ve heard he was an amazing jeweler. They say he could take apart a clock or even a small watch and make them better than new. His good friend was Wendy Bagwell of Wendy Bagwell and The Sunliters and for whom Wendy Bagwell Parkway was named. Last week, during one of Claude’s more lucid moments, he started talking about his old friend. “Virginia and I would go over to see Wendy and Melba,” He said, “Virginia and Melba would be in the kitchen and me and Wendy would go and sit on a quilt in front of the TV and watch wrestling and eat popcorn.”
Sometimes, an aging mind can be as creative as a youthful one. Uncle Howard had a scratch on his forehead a while back and I asked him what happened. “My helmet did that.” He said. At that time, he was sure he was back on an army base during the Korean conflict of the early fifties. I asked him if he’d like to go and ride around and he wouldn’t have it. “They’ll think I’ve gone AWOL.” He said.
You can never be too sure where the truth ends and the tales begin.
On Sunday, Claudia, Claude’s daughter, ran into Melba at church. “How is Claude?” She asked.
“He’s resting okay,” Claudia answered, “But I have to tell you what he said last week. He said that he and mom would come over to your house and you and mom would end up in the kitchen while he and Wendy sat on a quilt and watched wrestling and ate popcorn.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Melba, “That actually happened.”