August 10, 2004

fading away

My very good friend Chris recently started a new blog, called book of days. It seems I am slowly seducing every good writer I know into the game. More high quality reading material, yay! Today she wrote a review that got me thinking. The book is Judith Levineís Do You Remember Me?, an account of the authorís father as he descends into Alzheimerís. It sounds like a fascinating if emotionally difficult book.

From Chrisí description, it seems that Levine also uses the frame to explore how we grow old in this culture. Which of course relates back to my recent experiences with my neighbor as well as the post office brangle. I too have been thinking about old age. About the loneliness I see in these men and women in their tiny studio apartments, about the way theyíre carted off to elder day care every morning and ushered back to their cubicles every afternoon. About how they sit on the low walls in front of their apartment buildings, staring blankly out into the street, so deadened they donít seem able to return a smile. How they walk ever so slowly down the street carrying their shopping bags, either alone or with a bored looking paid companion. About how they seem to wither away in silence and poverty.

According to a Reuterís article (discovered via Digby), a study released this week showed that people with mentally challenging jobs or leisure activities are far less likely to develop Alzheimerís. So what we do, the way we live, affects our brains. In concrete ways. And when I think about the old people in this neighborhood Ė and this is a neighborhood chock full of old people Ė I think of their brains slowly dying along with their bodies and Iím so very sad. Our culture doesnít value our elders. They therefore donít value themselves. We all suffer as a result.

Posted by Tamar at August 10, 2004 10:21 PM

And both reading Levine and your posts about the alterkockers in your neighborhood (perhaps not unlike mine, who sit around the picnic tables arguing or are led around by sweet young women of many countries) remind me of my own grandmother, alone with her TV, acting more and more frightened as time goes on. Her vocabulary seems to shrink. She'll be her old self often enough that when she retreats into confusion, it hurts.

For complex reasons, she doesn't particularly want to engage with me, so I feel helpless in the face of what feels like entirely preventable deterioration.

Posted by: Chris at August 11, 2004 06:09 PM

We see so many old Russians in the park near here, playing cards at picnic benches until after dark, haggling with local shopkeepers. They don't sadden me; they still connect. But yes, women like your grandmother and my neighbor, their withdrawal from life makes me hurt too.

Posted by: Tamar at August 11, 2004 10:53 PM