My grandmother’s Alzheimer’s terifies me. I am my memories, the collection of girls and women who led to this current iteration. I am sunny days on a backyard swing set and sobbing confessions at church revivals.I am a squealing child being thrown into a swimming pool and a berserker victim daring her abusive husband to hit her already, and make leaving him easy.
When I consider the possibility of not having access to those memories, it doesn’t make me feel relieved at the idea of forgetting my traumas. I have the feeling my body will still remember them all in the form of autoimmune disorders. I think I would have the same pain, without understanding of it. Of course, I can’t know if I’m right.
Maybe it would be easier, not to have every act laden with meaning. Showers are trauma triggers due to a memory, so I must take baths. Nutella tastes like a happy vacation with my grandma to the Florida Everglades and banana sandwiches in the backseat of her Subaru Justy hatchback. Every No Doubt song eventually reminds me of slow dancing in the moonlight with my first boyfriend.
Many of these memories are good, or made better through the magic of time. I watch Clueless when I want to remember the happy belonging of having close girl friends, or I smoke a clove cigarette to remember wild nights at punk shows in Sarasota. The concurrent misery of being a suicidally depressed teenager isn’t part of the nostalgia experience, and so I remember my past better than it was.
I am my memories, and my memories are better than my life has been. I want to be the narrator of my own experience, dictator of my life. I think I was maybe five the first time my grandmother told me to let her die; that if the worst should happen no efforts should be made to keep her alive. I think she was afraid of a disabled life, and imagined she would prefer death. Maybe she’s decided her infirmity is livable, or maybe she’s forgotten she wants to die. I don’t know. I can’t.