Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Forget - Halloween 2014 Short Story

by: Roger A Wilbanks

You have no idea how difficult it is to begin.” I took a sip of water.

Just start at the point where you feel the most comfortable.” He pressed record on his tape player. “How long have you been dealing with this?” he asked.

This is all relatively new to me,” I said, “but it has been building in intensity over the past few years.”

Has it always been this severe?”

That just began.” I couldn't maintain eye contact with the man asking me these questions. I looked instead at the wall behind him and focused on the framed diplomas he had there. Rutgers man. I never saw Rutgers. Somewhere in New Jersey. That's where the Devils play.



Mr Granger?”

What? Who are you?” I demanded. I didn't recognize this man or where I was. I was scared. “What am I doing here? Am I in trouble?”

Do you know where you are, Mr Granger?” he asked.

Of course I do. I am sitting in a chair, yours by the look of it. What have I done? Why do you have me here?” The door was close. If he became dangerous, even as old as I am, I could make it in time.

You asked to see me, Mr Granger. My name is Doctor Ford. I am one of the nation's foremost experts on memory disorder and we are here in my office because you made an appointment to see me.”

“I think I would remember doing such a thing.” I said.

That is why you are here, Mr Granger.”

I looked at the man before me. He sat calm and relaxed. He had the look of a teacher or a professor. Someone who demanded attention. Someone who had answers. “Did I slip again?” I asked.

Yes. What do you remember this time? About just now. Do you recall any specific feelings or memories?”

No. Not really. I saw your diploma. Rutgers. That's in New Jersey, isn't it?”

Yes. Does that hold any significance for you?”

Hockey,” I said. “The Devils play there. I remembered watching the Stanley Cup on television in a dark room with wooden walls. A lot like your office. What did I say?”

You thought you were in trouble.” he said.

It must have been because you look like an authority type. Always had an issue with that type.” I said.

Well, I am a doctor.” he said.

We laughed.

Do you remember the slip?” he asked.

Vaguely.” I said. “It's like a TV show I watch from the corner of my eye while I am busy doing something else. I have an idea of what is going on but no idea regarding the who or the why. That seems to be a common thread with these episodes. I feel like I am watching someone else's life unfold but I have no idea why I am there.”

Alzheimer’s doesn't have any rules, Mr Granger.” he said. “It has some common threads across its tapestry but it is precocious. It will throw you curve balls that make even us experts swing and miss.”

What have I got to look forward to?” I asked.

How frequent are these slips?” he ignored my question.

Random. I was getting one a day, sometimes more. They seem to be triggered by memories. I get off on a thought tangent and my mind wanders. Once it gets going down that path it has a tendency to keep going that way, like a car rolling down an icy hill.”

That is one of the common threads. How much of your self do you maintain in these slips? Your true self.”

No idea. If by self you mean I know what I am, then a bit. I really lose the who and the why but the what remains constant. It's like I am plucked from a past memory and dropped into a current one with no context. The only constant is the feeling of total dread that overcomes me.” I took a drink.

Before. You mentioned you felt you had done something wrong. Is this also common?”

I paused. “Yes. These slips always center on the feeling that I have done something wrong; like I have intruded into someone else's story or I am being called to the carpet for something I have no knowledge of. The recurring feeling is one of blame. Blame focused on me.”

Delusions of persecution are the most common in Alzheimer’s patients, but often the fear is of loss, as if someone were trying to steal from you. In your case I think it stems from your own feelings of guilt. It is my guess you somehow feel responsible for your disease, as if you brought it upon yourself. I have referenced this as the Leper Mentality stemming from the Middle Age belief that Leprosy was somehow self-inflicted. It was thought of as an ailment brought down on one due to living an impure or unclean life. I can assure you now that there is nothing you have done or not done that brought this disease upon you. Regardless of what any televised charlatans say, there is neither a magic berry or super fruit you could have eaten nor any vice you could have avoided that would have prevented this. In truth, Mr Granger, you were born with this disease and it has been lurking deep within you biding its time until your body's natural recuperative powers waned with age. Anyone who tells you different is from Oz and is trying to sell you something rather than being truthful with you.”

I believe you, Doctor. I really do. But I know deep-down in my subconscious, in that part of me that is immune to outside influence that it doesn't matter. That is the part of me in the driver's seat when I slip and no one can reach that particular version of me because it is impossible to hold. Like Mercury in your palm.”

That is the true face of this disease, Mr Granger. The blank subconscious face of nearly every Alzheimer’s sufferer in existence. You retain the essential sliver of yourself but you lose all the context. This is not something a Psychiatrist like myself can fix I can only explain it to the you that remains constant in the hopes that it provides you with a base. It is my hope the part of you that refuses to participate in your life might someday see that as well, but it is not something I hold a lot of faith in.”

This must be what Hell is like, Doctor Ford. The constant cycle of on and off I endure. It feels like a carousel ride sometimes. Like I keep moving past the same point on a circle but sometimes I just don't recognize it. I stopped traveling in a straight line a long time ago. I just cover the same ground over and over again and at no point in this does that slipping part of me understand or even acknowledge that fact. It is left to the tired and old me to sort out the pieces when I come to my senses. I owe thanks to my dear son for putting me in this institution because now, when I 'return' I am always here where it is safe instead of having wandered off to God knows where. I woke up one time in an Adult theater. No idea how I got there.”

I read that in your file. It must have been frightening.”

“No. The terrifying part is the blanks. The parts I never remember. The terrifying part is how I feel when I have no understanding of my surroundings. I slipped while standing in line one time. I somehow remember staying in the line even though I had no idea how or why I was in it. When I got to the counter, I was crying. I told the attendant behind the counter that I had no idea who or where I was. They checked my wallet, called my son and now I am here. Safe.”

Yes, this is a safe place, Mr Granger. It is my belief that now that you are in an environment that has removed that factor that your slippages may wane, if not in number, than perhaps in severity as your feelings of sanctuary grow. While you will never be free of this disease, its effects upon you will loosen their hold and allow you to enjoy what remains of your life.”

Thank you, Doctor. That is very reassuring.”

Thank you, Doctor. That is very reassuring...very reassuring”

“You have no idea how difficult it is to begin.”  I took a sip of water.


“What's up with him?”

Alzheimer’s. He's one of the new ones. Has this conversation over and over with some invisible doctor. He hasn't eaten in days and I think he's a goner. Got no family to claim him. We found him in an Adult Movie theater having this conversation and he hasn't stopped.”

That's sad.”

Yeah. I guess so. What are we serving these guys for dinner tonight?”