The Beginning

April 15, 2013

Dear Dementia,

You are the goddess of the Mist, queen of a realm that Reason and Science work furiously to eradicate, a Mist that one day will recede into nothingness as surely as Mount Olympus once toppled. For now, we try to outrun the Mist and hide behind blockades built dose by dose of Aricept and Namenda. But our defenses are no match for you and your prince of plaque, Al-Z, who seeps through the barriers and toys relentlessly with his human victims as he leads them farther and farther into the Mist, where eventually they disappear. In the early 1900s, Science recognized your prince and called him Alzheimer’s disease. Since then, Science has been at war with you both and has sought to destroy the Mist.

I first met you, goddess, as a teen in the 1970s, as I watched my Zayde wander helplessly in and out of the Mist. The doctor’s initial diagnosis was Dementia, but as the years passed and Zayde strayed deeper into your foggy realm, Al-Z became his constant companion. I was not aware of you or Al-Z on a daily basis then, and so I only understood you in formal terms, as cognitive decay, as Alzheimer’s disease—as something apart from Zayde that infected his brain and impaired his cognition and for which there would one day be a cure. But nearly four decades later, you returned to entice both my parents into your Mist. Your draw so overpowered them, I had to move Mom and Dad into my own home in order to avert their certain demise. I've encountered you, in one form or another, every day for the past two and half years, and as intimate as we've become, Dear Dementia, you and Al-Z manifest in evermore challenging ways with each new sunrise.  You keep me on my toes.

My parents are in my protection now. Their care has become an integral, demanding, and often overpowering force in my family’s life.  Together, with my husband and children, we’ve built our barricades to keep out the Mist; created routines to keep Mimi and Grandpa safe, well-fed, clean, healthy, and as present as possible; and launched every chemical weapon at our disposal to attack the Mist. But the trouble with Mist is its ability to seemingly dissipate, providing moments of clarity and hope, only to descend again more ruthlessly and without warning.

I am my parents’ champion in a losing battle.  I am tired. Oh-so-tired.  

My whole family is tired.

But somehow we manage to not only hold it together but also thrive and grow stronger. We have an arsenal of weapons unavailable to you, my Dear Dementia: our love, our hope, our friendships, and, most valuable of all, our sense of humor.

And Jäger.  We have Jäger, too.

May the next generation conquer you, Dear Dementia.

With love,

Belinda Jay

Subpages (1): The Early Years