Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Last night we had a post-activity-justification family night. We hadn't darkened the library's door for far too long and we had to exchange our books for new ones. Andrew didn't get home until nearly seven, which made for a rather late dinner and an even later trip to the library, but it was fun to be together (the library is one place I don't usually visit by myself with all the kids because 4 children + 3 bags of books = not enough me to go around) and pick out new books to read. When we got home it was definitely bedtime so as we pulled into the driveway Andrew said that we'd go in, have scriptures and prayer, go over our family calendar, and that would be it for family night. No lesson, because bedtime.

So I paraphrased D&C 88:118, "Seek ye wisdom out of the best books of learning and all that."

Boom. Lessoned.

You'd think, after how many years of being at BYU that I'd have that scripture nailed down. That particular scripture is on the wall of the landing of the staircase between the third and fourth floor of the Harold B. Lee Library. My mom has worked on the fourth floor for the past fifteen years or so. I trudged up those stairs to her office every day when I was a student (both to visit her and because I worked on the sixth floor so...) and continued to visit her nearly every day after I had graduated and was working on campus as an actual employee (we'd often go for lunch break walks or I'd just stop to visit for a few minutes while waiting for Andrew to finish up on campus (because we've only ever had one car)). Anyway, I have read that scripture a billion times; I should be able to quote it verbatim, but I've never sat down and formally committed it to memory so I can't.

I just finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova. And I think I failed like half the memory tests she put in there—the "remember this address" test and the "remember this list of random words from the dictionary" test. Seriously. When she got to the part where Alice was trying to recall this information I was always like, "Aw, man! I can't remember either!"

But I'm pretty sure I don't have Alzheimers. I think I'm just overtired.

Instead of reading this book for bookclub I borrowed it at bookclub, after everyone was through reading it and discussing it, which is a real shame because now I feel like I want to discuss it. It actually made me cry, something a book hasn't managed to do in quite some time.

One friend of mine said she didn't really like either Alice or John, and the majority of my bookclub friends seemed to really resent John. But I thought they handled things remarkably well. I thought John was so sweet, running with her, watching movies with her, being so patient and understanding when she starts losing her ability to do things. I think his decision in the end is really the best decision for his own sanity because he has to keep on living, despite Alice being trapped in her "Seussical world of neither here nor there."

Recently a friend's father-in-law, who suffered from early-onset Alzheimers, passed away. I never met him, but my in-laws knew him when they lived out here, and I know his wife and his son's family. I asked my friend how her husband was handling things and she said that he was mostly feeling robbed, which I think I understand. I don't understand Alzheimers, necessarily, though I've had plenty of interaction with people who have suffered from dementia (Sister Payne and my own grandmother), but I do understand how a mental illness (which Alzheimers is not, so perhaps I should say "the state of one's mind") can "rob" a person of their relationships. It's awfully painful, awfully lonely having a person be there...yet not be there.

I sympathize with John Howland quite a bit and I think he did his best to care for his wife while also trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in his life. In the end he has to keep on living. I feel like a sabbatical year would have caused him to become swallowed up in grief. His schedule, his purpose (beyond being her caretaker) was just as important to his mental well-being as Alice’s schedule was to her when she was first diagnosed. When she lost her sense of self it felt like she began to decline more rapidly.

When I think about the people I know who've suffered from dementia, they don't know that they're being taken care of, necessarily. For example, my grandma once complained to my mom that no one ever checked in on her so my mom sent a message out to all my cousins in the area and pleaded with them to visit grandma. She received messages back from several saying, "I was just there on Thursday," and "We took her out to dinner on Monday," and "I brought my baby by to see her on Sunday."

My grandma didn't remember any of that so from her perspective she'd been woefully lacking company.

This book is largely from Alice's perspective, even though it's written in third person the narrative isn't omniscient. On the contrary, it's Alice's mind so it's anything but omniscient. Is her side of the narrative really to be trusted? We see in the book that whenever John's gone she can't remember if he's been gone for a week or five minutes until she finds his notes. I think she feels more neglected than she is not because her family isn't making an effort to care for her but because her own mind is a traitor.

Next up I need a happy book with a happy ending, okay?

(Though I'm actually in the middle of For the Fun of It by Amelia Earhart, which I guess ends well, but I also have Last Flight waiting for me and we all know how Amelia's last flight went down...or technically we don't I'll probably not read that one for a while because Still Alice had enough tragedy to last me).

1 comment:

  1. OH, get yourself some Penderwick books. They are happy. With sad moments, but overall happy.