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10 March 2007
Happy Birthday, Gayle Tarzia, wherever you are.
Gayle was one of my best friends in grammar school. We used to walk to school together every day. I watched television (especially Superman) at her house, because we didn't have a TV at our house. I ate dinner with her family often because her father didn't get angry every night. She was the one who told me about this new movie she'd just seen, called A Star Is Born and I knew I had to see it. I probably haven't seen her since 8th grade, but I always remember that today is her birthday. Isn't that weird?
The other day, I was writing a note to someone and I wanted to mention Paul's performance in The Music Man. Paul played young Winthrop twice, once in Davis and once in Oakland. He won an award as best young actor for the Oakland performance. I saw every performance of both productions, as well as a third production where he played the older Tommy Djilas, and I have also seen the movie several times, and have reviewed stage productions several times in several theatres.
Yet, try as I might, I could not think of the name of the character of Winthrop. I had to look it up.
I was also trying to come up with a line of lyric from one of the Lawsuit songs, a song that I know as well as I know my own name (who am I again?), but could not remember it and had to go to the web to look up the lyrics.
This scares me terribly. I know everybody begins to have memory problems as they age, but it doesn't make it any less frightening.
I also know that not all memory problems signal the onset of Alzheimers, but I remember the years when my aunt would joke that her brain "didn't work right." Now she recognizes nobody in the family, not even my mother or her own children. She is locked away in her own little world and none of us can reach her.
My mother doesn't have Alzheimers. Her brain can be sharp as a tack, but she is also having serious memory problems. I have known for a long time that her memory wasn't as good as it once was, but it wasn't until I lived with her that I realized the extent of the problem. Depending on the time and the situation, she can remember lots or she can forget what you just discussed five minutes before.
We would have long discussions about what show was coming up on television in the next five minutes and then she'd turn around, pick up the TV guide and say "well, what shall we watch tonight?"
My cousin's husband is after her to get a new cell phone (she had hers for five years and never used it and decided it was money she could not afford). He had really been bugging her about the importance of her having a cell phone. I finally took him aside and pointed out that even if he bought her a cell phone, her short term memory was diminishing so badly that she would never be able to learn how to use it. He sadly agreed.
She has had WebTV for several years and I set it up for her so that she only has to push two buttons to get to this journal, but she either can't or won't remember. The only way she finds my journal entry each day is by my sending out an e-mail notification with a link for her to click on.
It's scary. She once told me "if I ever get like that, you tell me!" but what is the point? Why let her know that she has "gotten like that" when there is nothing she can do to change things? She eats well, takes care of herself, takes her vitamins and keeps her brain active...but she's 87 years old. She can't be as sharp as she was at 20--or even 50.
I think she began to have some sort of a realization of that when she made a simple error when we were playing "65" with Peach and Bob, a mistake she made four times in one game. Since she is the original card shark, this kind of shook her up.
My grandmother had vascular dementia, where bits of her brain would literally die every day. My mother was terrified of ending up like her mother -- but she has already outlived her mother by five years.
It scares me too. Alzheimers and Dementia run in my family. I can't remember the role Paul played in The Music Man and I'm only 64 years old.
I have said the same thing to people I love that my mother did: "If I ever get like that, tell me." But I know that they won't because they will come to the same realization that I have about my mother. It won't do any good and would only make me feel worse. (And if they tell me, I probably won't remember anyway!)
Perhaps the one comforting thing is that as you lose your brain function, you are unaware of it. It is a great sadness to the people who love you to see you cross over into that Alzheimers fog, for example, but does the person with Alzheimers even know? Does it bother them?
So, Gayle Tarzia--or whatever your married name is now--I don't expect you to ever see this, but know that even though I can't remember the name of my son's Music Man character, I remembered your birthday...and I hope that all the birthdays you've had since 1956 were happy ones!
(yes, I remember that I have written about this subject before...two...or three times...just in case you're worried!)
LOL. Writing the above made me think how strange it would be if Gayle ever did a Google search on her maiden name. It made me wonder what I'd find if I did such a search on MY maiden name (West). Do you know that a woman named "Bev West" is co-author of a book called "Three Fat Chicks on a Diet"? Obviously the name is doomed to fatness!!!!!
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Gayle, at my birthday slumber party in about 1956.
Just for the sake of possible Google searches, Gayle's elbow
This is entry #2536