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Fittingly enough, it was during this election cycle my mother received her dementia diagnosis. Thanks to her stroke, she’s moved fairly quickly through the levels, like a pro-gamer unlocking ever more complex realms of challenge. When she was unable to feed herself or attend to hygiene, memory care became inevitable. My periodic visits have become studies in both specific and general cognitive atrophe, in addition to whatever else it is when a son becomes the elder to his parent.

As a way of holding on to the rail when the seas get rough, I have begun to look at the memory care facility, and mental disability, in an anthropological light. I’m always on the look out, in my mother’s case, to see what parts of personality persist, and which patterns remain as a kind of behavioral bedrock. Observing which of her symptomatic responses were there all along in nascent form. Seeing her surrounded by her ‘peers’, each with their own expeditions underway, it forces me to wonder about the so-called sanity of us all.

My understanding is that one-in-three seniors suffer from some kind of memory dysfunction, with a full five million or more receiving professional assistance in daily living. If you add in by way of the graces of lay practitioners- family members and friends doing their best to provide critical care- the number of those non compos mentis may be three times that.  This means as a voting block, there are ten to fifteen million or so, who are legally able to cast votes, though they may not know night from day, or whether shoes go on hands or feet.

Which bring us to the realm of the undiagnosed mental indigents, including clinically uninformed or perpetually ’undecided’ voters.  I realize, technically these are different groups but there is also overlap. The underlying idea being, a decision is based on information, and if that information is driven by pure fabrication, emotional remnants, manipulation, or just cerebral breakdown, the result is pretty much the same. Not a very creditable vote. But a vote with equal weight to all others nonetheless.

This all makes me think about the larger body politic, those of us who either claim or aspire to lucidity. Some of us, the more flexible ones, question our judgments and opinions, and may be legitimately undecided as we weigh our options. I fear a great many never do this, they are unburdened so to speak. They can be cajoled to vote against their best interests, and even darker, live unaware they are useable as human fodder from a macro perspective.  I’m not suggesting that to be a citizen one needs to be sentient, or even socially aware, but I do wonder about functionally viable thresholds.

No matter what the outcome of this present contest, it will be hard for me to separate my mother’s dementia, from a mass dementia of sorts that seems to be sweeping the land. Both are ruled by irrationality, highly unpredictable states, and often beget tragic-comedic instances and episodes beyond belief. We can ask why these things happen, yet if there are answers they are not anywhere near solving the larger conundrum of their lamentable existence.

One thing I am very thankful for with my mother is the Blues. It’s pretty engrained in most of us, including her, to hum along with a twelve bar rhythm, letting time pass bye and troubles float away.  This easily beats words for getting down to the marrow. Luckily, me being an amateur musically, I don’t have to do much to hold down the bottom, and let her cares fade away. It soothes and has great meaning for us both, on that microscopic scale where we dwell while the clock ticks. Unfortunately, I don’t know a correspondingly deep and healing tune for that collective realm where actions have consequences and we supposedly remain accountable and responsible for ourselves.


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Much to think about, thanks!

Two tough, dark items to contemplate.

With current politics, I've very much decided about the two major candidates presented by the major parties for president. They are terrible candidates, each in their own unique ways. I don't want either, and neither gets my vote.

This decision comes from reading about them, watching them for decades, listening to their speeches, reading their policies, watching them debate, seeing how they react to news and issues, and looking at the actions they have taken over the years. Neither inspires, nor "feels right" fro the times we live in. Both seem to lack critical understanding of technology, climate change, race, poverty, etc.

(Neither of the two major "third-party" candidates grabs me,for what it is worth.)

I demand better.

As for caring for aging relatives losing memory - so many thoughts. It's not supposed to be like that. We kids are supposed to look up to and lean on parents. When that flips, it is uncomfortable and weird.

The child becomes a new parent, but with a "child" that is regressing rather than progressing. All the energy and ideas going toward care today might lead to a little less the next day. The goal isn't so much helping someone to take off and fly but to come in for a smooth landing.

When I helped care for someone in a similar situation, it could be frustrating. It's really hard when communication is difficult. I had to assume that the things I said or did were sinking in, even if I wasn't getting the normal feedback one would expect. I had to use animal communication skills - body language, eyes, etc. - more than words.

There was a lot of repetition. Patience is a necessary skill.

There were occasional moments of lucidity, and also some funny moments. There were times when what unfolded wasn't what was expected.

Music seems to be one of the things that we do keep with us until the very end. Coloring books and art were another that helped for a while, but music outlasted art. And the body outlasted the mind by a bit. It's hard to see the empty shell of someone that used to be whole.

You hit on something there that is critical - so many people go through this. Usually quietly, behind the scenes. Perhaps we could do a better job by coming out and working together on gaining, memory, and care.


Batting left or right handed

After reading this fine piece four times, I wasn’t sure I could say anything.

I’m still not sure.

But I can add that one problem must be that we are indeed intelligent voters, so many of us, that is. The problem is that when you’re given only two stinking choices and a few crumbs to play with, it is an insult to those who are yet mentis compos.

You can bat left or right handed but it doesn’t matter if you hit the ball or not.


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