Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Alzheimer's: Getting Lost On Memory Lane!

Sometimes Hollywood endings can be downright cruel. I was disheartened over the holidays to find out that actor Peter Falk is suffering from Alzheimer’s. He’s not one of my favorite actors, but I did enjoy some of the roles he’s played. Of course Lieutenant Columbo, the rumpled detective comes to mind right away. However he also played an angel named Max in a series of TV Christmas films that were also quite enjoyable.

The 81-year-old actor can no longer see to his own affairs and a family member filed for conservancy last month. That’s something I hope I never have to do. However my mother fears it more than anything else that can happen to you when you get older. I know where she’s coming from.

She volunteers in a wing of the local hospital where she lives that she refers to as the “Medicare” unit. That’s because most of the people there are on a Medicare and it’s probably their last stop in life. She’s seen too many people go through there whose memories were ravaged by Alzheimer’s.

A couple that used to live just down the street from us when I was in high school both ended up in that unit. Both of them went through the stages of Alzheimer’s. I remember attending high school with their daughter Carla. One of her grandmothers stayed with them at one time. The woman went for a walk in the all-together one day. Back then they referred to that as senility. Not anymore and apparently it climbed down the family tree.

I worked my way through college by taking jobs both during the school year and during the summer. A few summers I worked at a limestone mine. College kids were looked down on by some of the full-time workers at the mine. I remember a foreman called George who you could always talk to if you were having a problem. Now George is in that “Medicare” unit. He smiles when you call his name, but that’s the only recognition you’ll get out of him.

Lieutenant Columbo had a habit of always coming back when he remembered another question he had for his murder suspects. Of course that was just a gambit, but for the man who played him it no longer is. I hope that I’ll never get lost on Memory Lane.

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