Friday, July 7, 2017

The Long View: Being, in no particular order, 25 things I've bumped into along the way and have not forgotten. Yet.

21. Memory
Three members of my family have been afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. It's a heartbreaker, to put it mildly. To witness its onset is to watch the erasure of personality and attachment, the inability to, for the most part, communicate with friends and loved ones in any meaningful way, to see the bridge from past to present fall down and float away. Then, as the disease intensifies, comes the inability to care for oneself, to comprehend time and space and recall one's place in the world, in a family, in a relationship, to clean and take care of oneself. I'm 64, rapidly closing in on 65, and my memory is not what it used to be, though I don't have Alzheimer's as far as I'm aware. (Interestingly, a neurologist told me that Alzheimer's is not a genetic trait.) I jokingly tell people that I'm so much happier since I've lost my memory, but I'm not entirely joking. Partly it's the absence of great swaths of memory that brings contentment, and partly it's my terrific wife, Nattabi, and baby son, Mukisa. I believe that I've also done some things over the years that have contributed greatly to my reasonably good (if forgetful) mental condition. I've kept moving and changing and seeking fresh experiences. I've stayed active in creative work, and always will as I'm not a rich man. I've used the robust sense of humor I inherited from my parents, and I've sought out people who also like to laugh and believe that whimsy is essential. Writing forces me to exercise my memory, and as a major yapper I think that the narcotic of lively conversation is the key to staying intellectually engaged. I believe too much comfort is a danger. And physical activity is important, including sex. Most of my suggestions here are obvious and oft repeated, but it's surprising how people forget the obvious, and forgetting everything else can soon follow.

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