C. B. lost her mind somewhere between Sunset Boulevard and Mulholland Drive. Alzheimer is eating her brain, and each time my husband and I visit her on our annual visits to Los Angeles, some more of it is gone.
Two years ago, though she was happy to see us, she spent a lot of our time together talking about people who were visible to her but not to us. Last year, she seemed to know that we were people who were close to her, and she was at once very happy to see us but also terribly agitated, perhaps because she could not dredge up our names or hold a real conversation. This year, perhaps she recognized us, but we could not be sure. She focused only when I started telling her about a camping trip we had planned. But she didn’t focus for long. This woman, who was once such a respected educator and administrator, was expending all her mental and physical energy on fiddling with the elastic band of her trousers, and she was still troubled by the many people she could see and we couldn’t.
The mind makes us human, yet we are still human beings when we lose it. Where did C.B.’s mind go when Alzheimer carried it away?
Text copyright 2010 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.