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“And I’ll miss the blood red sunset, but I’ll miss you the most … Adios … Adios”

I am not well-versed on the subject of Alzheimer’s, so, please do not look for or expect anything even remotely clinical or scientific on the subject herein. There will be no informative links to click. Just pure emotional speculation and curiosity. One fact I will confidently address is I do know Alzheimer’s is one of the most heartbreaking end of life conditions, especially for those who watch someone slipping away.

I had an Aunt (my father’s youngest sister who was 14-16 years older than me) pass away a year ago from complications from her very aggressive degree of Alzheimer’s. She was like a big sister to me. My other Aunt (her oldest sister and Dad’s last remaining sibling – Dad is the oldest) is struggling deeper and deeper into her own version of the condition and can no longer be left to live alone. Even my Dad has a certain degree of a dementia aspect to him. Unlike his sisters, one who smoked heavily her whole adult life and the youngest who was married to someone who smoked heavily, Dad has not smoked or been exposed to the condensed daily calcifying element smoking adds to cholesterol build-up in the body’s circulatory system that feeds proper oxygen to the brain for it to function properly. However, Dad has been a lifelong high cholesterol consumer (loves his cheeses and ice creams and eggs) and that has lead to his clogged arteries and multiple open heart bypass surgeries … and his back and forth diabetes and small strokes. All this has lead to Dad’s bottles of daily medications to try to stabilize his conditions, which he also believes he is smart enough to regulate dosage and frequency outside the doctors’ recommendations … *sigh* … Mind you, the man has a daughter and two granddaughters who are physicians, and all three have thrown their hands up in frustration of his disjointed logic and reasoning behind self-medicating, as have the rest of us. I am saying the various combinations of all his medications already interact and cause negative side-effects, but the imbalance Dad creates by self-regulating outside the doctors’ orders obviously does not help and on occasion we see him experience some confusion, depression, and irritability (my sister that lives in Georgia and doesn’t see/talk with Dad as frequently notes it more-so when she sees/phones him) that may or may not be a result of his meds and his own tinkering ways. It is difficult to tell if his questionable moments are a result of his bad behavior, or a natural course of his possible own on-coming state of Alzheimer’s. As you must guess, this close lineage of relatives having comedown with Alzheimer’s has me and my two sisters self-alarmingly self-aware.

Dad and his five younger siblings grew up during The Depression with his young, widowed mother (her husband suffering and dying from a massive heart attack barely into his 30s), all the children at or below the age of 10 years old. All the siblings grew up sharp as knives in mentality and in stubbornness. All took little jobs here and there after school when they became old enough to, and eagerly handed their earnings to my Grandmother who was also working inside and outside the home. Dad has always been a natural mathematical genius in his own right. He could give you an answer by way of his own method to a mathematical question, but couldn’t show you how to get the answer by way of your formal text book equations and formulations. Yeah, Dad was pretty much useless to me with my high school honors algebra/trig/calc homework, especially since my teachers put most of the grading weight into the process and less the answer. To this day his mind is very analytical and detailed. A self-made carpenter and cook, Dad has always envisioned a project and just did it, making adjustments as he moved along.

Anyhow, I’ve drifted off topic here. I guess I’m trying to say nobody absolutely knows for certain (the science is not ‘settled’) as to the cause(s) of Alzheimer’s. DNA/Hereditary? Environment? Toxins? Diet? Who really knows for sure. What we do know for certain is Alzheimer’s and dementia are very debilitating conditions for the patient, and the family as well. The patient physically and mentally becomes helpless, but family members feel completely helpless trying to help care for their loved one as they slip farther and farther away from us, and who they are, into that unknown darkness they will never return from. It is a cold-hearted undeadness…

Do they hear us? Do they see us? Can they feel us, even though they can no longer respond in this plane of existence? Are they trapped inside a cumbersome body, or are they watching us and the world from the other side of a closing door between us?

I have come to an imagining impression that for the patient it is like them being a lone starship existence traveling through the endless dark void of a universe with distant glitters of light in the unreachable realm … Is it the promised Kingdom of Paradise? Is it the threatened Hell? Is it the legendary limbo of Purgatory between the mortal past and the immortal eternity? And in my impression I sort of connect it with my recently negative transformed ideas about interstellar space travel detaching the traveler from any and all that is a human connection with time as an enemy. I think in the movie “Interstellar” that is what bothered me even more than anything else …

… The tesseract, and the concept of possibly never dying and moving out of the mortal sensations of fear, loneliness, abandonment. Is Alzheimer’s like that? Is that what patients experience?

As the patient’s mind travels deeper and deeper into this dark universe the human body is left behind and becomes non-functioning, like an abandoned boat adrift on the sea to slowly and mercilessly self-destruct. What is the patient really experiencing in that void we are not accompanying them on? Are they alone, or are they traveling a singularity with the other Alzheimer patients through some dark hole in our universe or another universe without the constraints of the mortal human body … without a starship? I know … I know, crazy talk.

I tend to pull myself back from that imagined mental event horizon in hopes it is more of reliving through the stored memories of the mind. And then you would hope they are the fond and happy memories until the Gates open and take us into Paradise. I guess I just cannot accept the human mind simply crashes and becomes nothing, especially if the patient has not actually died. All those countless fired synapses of a life suddenly gone from Creation…

It is a long and hard journey taken in the physical and emotional world for the families, and the yet unknown universe for the traveler. It is one thing to lose someone to death, but to see they have left behind their still living bodies in an infantile zombie-like state with us just is something so unnatural to the human psyche. When we lose our loved ones to death we know they’re in a better place, yet, somehow always with us. This disease is a torture on the mind, body and soul. Alzheimer’s is the complete opposite of watching someone die from cancer. With most cancers the mind is ever present and interacting with the people and world around. With Alzheimer’s the mind abandons the body to the world until it ceases functioning without the human computer intelligence first voluntarily and then involuntarily guiding it. Which is why we find ourselves asking for mercy on ourselves and our families in hopes of a manner of quick death rather than Alzheimer’s. I know I would rather lose my brilliant Dad to a sudden heart or brain attack than lose him this way.

Most of us know of or have witnessed the Alzheimer experience through our own family and friends. And all of us fear the idea of actually falling victim to it ourselves. Losing touch with reality. Losing control over our thoughts. Losing our lifetime of memories and those from just moments ago. Over the years we have heard news reports of well-known celebrities who have passed away at the end of their very private battle with Alzheimer’s. Some have decided, while still able to make such decisions for themselves, to make their personal condition known for public awareness of Alzheimer’s and its lack of bias in its victims social status. Actor Charlton Heston, former President Ronald Reagan, and others made their conditions known before bowing out from public view, wanting us to remember them as they were. They try to preserve the memories for us that they themselves are losing.

Currently singer and master guitarist Glen Campbell is fighting his own battle with the dreaded Alzheimer’s. When I was a little girl some of my favorite songs were Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb songs. As a matter of fact, “Wichita Lineman” still grabs my heart and soul, and I find it one of the most romantic songs I’ve ever heard…

Since the more aggressive stages of Alzheimer’s has taken over Campbell’s life over the last few years he has chosen a couple ways to formally say his farewells to the public with dignity and acceptance…

From Rolling Stone: “Ailing musician bids goodbye on his final album with a bittersweet Jimmy Webb tune”

After Glen Campbell’s 2011 Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which he followed with the Goodbye Tour and the documentary film I’ll Be Me chronicling both, the performer returned to the recording studio one final time to leave family, friends and fans worldwide a remarkable gift. Adiós, the final studio album from the six-time Grammy winner, spotlights some of Campbell’s favorite songs, most of which he had never recorded before. But rather than a collection of mere musical afterthoughts, the LP stands among Campbell’s best – heartbreaking and imbued with poignancy, but sung with the same pure, sparkling vocals that are a distinguishing hallmark….

[…]

“Glen and I used to play that song all the time,” Webb tells Rolling Stone Country. “We played it in dressing rooms, hotels, we played it over at his house, we played it at my house. He always loved that song. I heard ‘Adiós’ this morning and my wife and I both broke down and cried all over this hotel room. It’s the first time we ever heard it. Carl just did something extraordinary.”

[…]

“The whole Glen story since Alzheimer’s entered the picture has been sort of startlingly unique in the fact that he continued to perform and there were a lot of unexpected things that happened,” says Webb. “This album is just kind of a gift from the gods. Carl is like some kind of magical person now, in my view, because he put the album together that Glen wanted to sing. And I just feel blessed that I get to hear these songs. It’s like early Christmas.” […]

And we carry and protect the memories for them…

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