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One Of The Odd Things About Memory

As a grandchild of someone who suffered from Alzheimer’s, I was removed from the day-to-day decision making and doctor appointments monitoring my Poppop’s disease. I was at a stage of life where I was absorbed with me -- my high school and college years. As such, I find that I don’t have a lot of concrete data about it. For example, I know that he was diagnosed but I had only a vague idea of when this took place. So, I sat down with my Mom, this being her father, to ask her some questions about what she remembers.

My assumptions about my Poppop were dispelled

Much of what I believed or assumed to be true, needed a fact-check.

  • I believed that Poppop’s disease manifested and was the cause of my grandparent’s return to the family base in Lower Bucks County, Pennsylvania following a move to Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, otherwise referred to as “the mountains.” However, Mom says Pop was diagnosed prior to this move. The difference in the time period is about 5 years.
  • I remember Poppop retiring from a job at a corporation and living a retired life for a number of years until he started picking up odd jobs. However, Mom says that prior to the move to the mountains Pop was driving home health workers to their needed locations. After he missed several appointments, he was fired from the job. This would be the trigger for him to seek medical help that would, eventually, result in a diagnosis.
  • I had believed Pop to be under the treatment of a specialist and trying new treatments throughout his time with Alzheimer’s. However, my mom said this was not the case. Their interaction with a neurologist was minimal and his main care was through a primary care physician.

No definitive account

Some of this my Mom knew without question. Some of our discussion points involved putting together a timeline, questioning the setting of significant conversations or who was in attendance. So, it seems, neither one of us can outline a definitive account of disease progression.

In making these memories, we brought with it our biases, our emotions, and our own circumstances. As I mentioned, I was in my late schooling years when I noticed the issues. My mother would have been raising four children in addition to supporting her parents. I imagine, at the time, it was easy for me to pass off Poppop calling me another grandchild’s name, there are so many of us, after all. I imagine, also, that in coordinating rides to wrestling matches and softball games, Mom may have found it hard to zero in as my Grandmom complained about Poppop locking his keys in the car -- again.

Irony of memory

My biggest takeaway for this discussion: No one’s memory is perfect. I knew this to be true on a factual basis, but to question my own memories of a time when Poppop was battling with Alzheimer’s for his feels very different.

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