With all that’s been going on with Carol’s mother and the deaths over this last year, I have not thought consciously at least that much of Brother Dan’s stroke. I have managed to see him nearly every week—not as frequently lately as school and getting ready for it approaches, but the other day he sent me some aphasia poetry. Because that’s what he has—though it is getting better—aphasia. Anyway that made me remember; and realize too that I have not really forgotten about it.
I have had lately memory problems; the result I expect of no more than aging. But I spoke with a colleague the other day whose mother, only in her mid seventies, is showing signs of Alzheimer. He went to where she lives—for a while during the summer—to spell his father who was becoming worn out from tending his mother. Amazing, to think, I think: of the memory just going. Not just forgetting but not even knowing that one has forgotten.
I can’t imagine what that might be like: like drifting up in the clouds perhaps, unattached, with a bottomless pit right below. Especially when the short term goes; you might wash your face over and over, forgetting as you blink your eyes, each time that you had forgotten.
I think this just incomprehensible: to lose your mind in this way; and not even know that you have lost it because the mind is just the brain in situ. One might know, by means of the brain that one has lost one’s arm or one’s sight or that one is losing one’s strength. But when the mind itself is being lost there is nothing to know the loss.
But this is what Brother Dan, in a different form, has been struggling with for eight months now. Does he have problems with memory? Maybe yes, maybe no. Certainly not of the short term kind, and if of the long term, I don’t know. When he says something is 12,000 dollars and he meant 1200 dollars, did he forget that it was just 1200 or did his mind misspeak, mistaking 12000 for 1200. I don’t know if he would know, or if I would know, for that matter, unless somebody had been there to say otherwise, because at times at least I don’t think he knows he has misspoken.
They say the intelligence of the aphasiac is frequently unimpaired. But how would one know. How could you give a cat a test to see if it is going blind, since he cannot tell you want it sees. I think Dan’s intelligence is unimpaired. But were he to take some sort of verbal comprehension test he would do poorly I think.