The Red Ledger

Column: Making sense of fleeting memories

TRL%27s+Hallie+Fischer+gives+account+of+her+personal+experience+with+Alzheimers.
TRL's Hallie Fischer gives account of her personal experience with Alzheimers.

TRL's Hallie Fischer gives account of her personal experience with Alzheimers.

Carter Bryant

Carter Bryant

TRL's Hallie Fischer gives account of her personal experience with Alzheimers.

Hallie Fischer, Editor-in-chief

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The hallways reek of desperation and death. I am only 10 but I know what this place is. The hallways are bland, dull, and begging for attention. A meek attempt to lighten the mood takes form in hotel lobby-like artwork.

I don’t know if my mind has sunk to the level of the walls and gone blank or if my thoughts are merely prison in my state of hopelessness.

She would’ve hated this place. She would have seen the weak attempt at the artwork and sigh. Her house is opposite of this. It is cozy and warm and full of color and artwork and food. It smells of her two Shih Tzus, not cheap bath soap.

My thoughts finally break free. I wonder if she knows we are coming. I smile a weak smile.

“She probably forgot,” my head says.

“Probably,” I think back.

My ears feel like they are stuffed with cotton because all the noises are muffled. I don’t like how it feels like an asylum. Nothing here can hurt them.

I’m at my mom’s hip. She turns the handle and with pain, opens the door.


 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 66 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in America, and five million Americans are living with it today.

I’m not a stranger to this. My great aunt and my grandma have fallen victim to this petrifying disease. It lives in my genes, meaning most likely there will be more names to add to that list. Most likely, more important women in my life will fall in line: my mom, my younger sisters, maybe even me.

My grandma, Mawmaw, means the world to me. I truly think she is an angel, just one that occasionally forgets where she put her wings. She is a strong (and short) 68 year old, married to my grandpa, Papoo, for 50 years, and until a few years ago, I thought nothing in the world could touch her.

She lives close, so I make plans with her frequently; going to get our nails done, painting, etc., but I have to call her multiple times in advance to re-propose our afternoon out. Sometimes I tell her to check her whiteboard where she writes down her agenda and when she sees her previous handwriting she laughs it off and says “Hell, I can’t remember anything!”

I laugh back.

I drive, and on the way to lunch, she asks me several times where we are going. Each time is as curious as the last. I smile at her and patiently repeat our plans, with even more enthusiasm than the last.

I don’t mind at all. I just remember to enjoy these times, the now, before they are only a memory.


 

My great-aunt was equally as magnificent.

I visited my great Aunt Hallie more often than most kids visit their great aunt. She and her husband lived in a little, quirky house in Louisiana. She was a wonderful artist ever since she was a girl. She used to show me all of her paintings and sketches, making up little back stories for them.

She and her husband were still going strong in their sixties. They rode around on motorcycles together until Aunt Hallie kept forgetting where she put her keys, and I never thought losing your keys would be so painful.

After a while, she was moved to a nursing home a couple streets away from her house. It was one of the best. The curtains were heavy and a deep red. The place was quite beautiful, though I always saw it as grim and dull. There was a bright grand piano sitting in the foyer, and various courtyards where the dwindling patients could stroll around lonely through the bushes.

My great aunt was never lonely though. Her husband visited her every day until he was the only one that she could remember.

Alzheimer’s, I’ve come to realize, is a very lonely disease. You forget all the ones you loved until you are alone with only your thoughts.

Until those leave you too.


 

I am 10 again. The door creaks open and there she sits, slouched over on her hospital bed. Although there are many fluffy blankets and pillows surrounding her, she seems to be carved out of stone.

My mom gives her aunt a hug and turns to me.

“Aunt Hallie,” my mom starts. “This is my daughter, Hallie. We named her after you.”

I smile, wanting to give her a hug.

“Hello,” she regards. “Nice to meet you.”

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