NPR recently featured an interview with Greg O’Brien, a journalist with early-onset Alzheimer’s.
I found O’Brien’s personal take on Alzheimer’s quite profound.
I like how visually he described the disease, saying, it is like “a plug in a loose socket” that you keep trying to plug in but eventually it stops working and the light goes out.
On Pluto by Greg O’Brien
The one point that really struck home with me was when he describes how having Alzheimer’s disease forces you to find your own identity each and every day. He says the pieces of his self-identity, the who, what, when, where and how are like cards carefully arranged in a file cabinet.
“Then at night, someone comes in and they take all the files out and they throw them all over the floor. And then you wake up in the morning and say, “Oh my God, I have to put these files back before I realize my identity.”
I thought that was a very simple yet powerful way to sum up this disease.
O’Brien has written a memoir, “On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s” and I plan on reading it soon.
If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts.
I don’t remember my dad breaking out the suit and tie very often in my childhood. He was more the “business casual” kind of guy. He usually wore slacks, a dress shirt or sweater and sturdy black walking shoes. He never owned a pair of jeans or a pair of sneakers. That’s why it was such a shock to see him in the nursing home for the first time, wearing Scooby Doo pajama bottoms and canvas sneakers. The next time I visited he had on a pair of sweat pants. The nursing home staff dressed the residents in whatever was the most comfortable and easy to manage with all of the diaper changes they had to deal with. I understood the reasoning, but it was also another blow to my dad’s identity.
But in this photo, one of my all-time favorites, Dad and I are ready to hit the town. I’m guessing this was a holiday picture of some sort. I love the joy that is radiating from both of our faces in this photo. It’s just love, pure and simple, in its natural essence. Dad’s sporting a groovy 1970’s tie and I have to say, I’m looking pretty darn adorable.
In the NPR story on Alzheimer’s that features The Memories Project, I’m referred to as “daddy’s little girl” which I never thought would have applied to me. But as I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about Dad, discovering photos and recording the family stories from over the years, I cherish the close relationship that Dad and I had when I was a little girl. Of course, I was too young to appreciate it at the time, and sadly, as I got older, we drifted apart until the final few years of his life. But at least I have photos like this to remind me that I was indeed, “Daddy’s little girl.”