Tag Archives: memory loss

Senior Moments?

Senior Moments? - After seeing the movie Still Alice, Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, worries about having Alzheimer's.I entered the gym thinking about the movie, Still Alice, wondering if I had early Alzheimer’s since I misplaced my wallet and had more than my regular share of senior moments the past week. Forgetfulness, memory loss, slowed thinking, difficulty concentrating, losing track of time, anxiety, depression, feeling detached and isolating oneself are symptoms common to both Alzheimer’s and grief. It’s been almost four years since my daughter died but lately I’ve been losing and forgetting everything, all over the place. And after seeing Still Alice, I dreaded getting Alzheimer’s as much as I dreaded getting cancer.

“Robin?” A voice grabbed me from my thoughts. “Shoshanna, Marika’s friend,” said a beautiful young woman who did not look familiar. I thought, Shoshanna? I only know one Shoshanna, my daughter’s friend. But this isn’t Shoshanna. The stranger hugged me. I was aware she was warm from her workout while I was cold from outside.

“Oh hi. How are you? What are you doing these days?” I asked, searching her eyes for some connection. For a full minute I listened and hoped my face did not reveal my confusion. It felt like the scene from the movie where Alice stands, lost, staring at a spot she’d frequented most of her life.
Slowly, as this vibrant young woman spoke, it came back to me: Shoshanna as a kid sitting on a staircase outside her mother’s house, her father snapping pictures at a prom, Shoshanna at the house, visiting Marika at the hospital. Wild, unpredictable. Loyal. The breathy awkwardness of the younger Shoshanna was now replaced by a smooth confidence radiating from the adult before me.

Showering after my exercise class, I wondered how different Marika would have looked as a twenty-six year old. I thought of Shoshanna. This was someone who will remember my daughter long after I die or if I sink into Alzheimer’s and can no longer remember what I have or have lost. I wished I had recognized her sooner and greeted her more warmly. She would have left the gym by the time I dressed. “Visiting my parents for the break, … DC, … Michigan,” she’d said. Maybe I’d never see her again. Maybe if I did, I would not recognize her at all next time. And perhaps, if I slid down the slopes of dementia, she would not recognize me. It’s probably a good thing that what I worry about is heavier than what I can hang onto.


Does anyone else ever fret about getting Alzheimer’s? What keeps you up at night?

Progressive Memory Loss

Progressive Memory Loss - Using progressive eyeglasses, Robin botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops multiple images of storyteller Regi Carpenter who suffered memory losses before her decent into mental illness.“I TOLD you these progressive glasses would not be easy to get used to. DON’T you remember?” the woman at the optician’s sounded defensive.
“Well, I have no memory of-,” I stopped. I couldn’t argue. “Thanks anyway,” I said curtly, and left before I could explode.
The truth is anyone can tell me she told me something, anything, and I would not be able to say for certain whether she did or did not. The only things I remember for sure are the blue veins like tiny trees on my daughter’s lavender eyelids as she lay unconscious in the ICU four years ago. And her red-painted toenails. And the invincible feeling that Marika could endlessly pull off miracles each time she almost lost her life. And then I remember the crushing words from the doctors that finally compelled me to put down the Ken Follett novel I was reading and memorize my daughter’s face instead.

“I don’t remember any of it,” I said to Jill Swenson, book development agent, a year after my daughter died, when I’d written a long love-letter to Marika thinking I was writing a memoir about our journey through the wilds of cancer.
“If you can’t remember the facts of what happened, you can’t write a memoir,” Jill said, smiling incredulously. Then, queasy with headaches, I kicked myself to read through my daughter’s blog posts, paperwork from the hospital, my sister’s weekly email newsletters from the bleak days of cancer, and my own daily-calendar books, to whack my memory back. Soon there were enough memories to fuel three years of writing, 200 pages, and 60,800 words. Ratted-up tissues littered the floor and my eyes turned red as all the things I wanted to forget rewound and replayed in my head.

Recently I attended Snap!, a true story of a young woman’s decent into mental illness, written and performed by Ithaca storyteller Regi Carpenter. Before she got locked up in a state mental hospital, losing chunks of her memory was Regi’s first sign that something was wrong. So sometimes I wonder if I am losing my mind.
I am not afraid of being crazy. Writing down what I want to remember now, I am not afraid of forgetting what I ate or what I read or was told. What I AM afraid of is being hurtful to another. Because I’ve learned that what life throws at you hurts enough without people adding to it.

“I will make these work,” I stubbornly tell myself, repositioning the progressive eyeglasses and my chin over tiny print. I’ve survived the death of my daughter. I’ve been through hell and back; I can do anything now.
Warning: I will walk out on you if you say to me, “DON’T you remember?”


Is memory loss a symptom of grief and does anyone else suffer from this?