I’ll admit to experiencing a great deal of bewilderment over what is happening to Kristina’s brain right now. I know for the last few weeks she has focused solely on a period of time between age 14 and about mid 1975 or so. I always considered those the crap years of both our lives and I couldn’t understand why she wanted to relive them, complete with the cast of characters, half characters,weirdos, and oh my gawd, not high school too!
Today I received a fairly detailed explanation from her partner. Whatever else the tumor is doing, it will not let her memories or thoughts progress beyond 1975. Anything after that has ceased to exist. Her partner explained, along with links to various thickly written articles, that forms of this occur in elderly dementia/alzheimers patients quite often. The present no longer exists, but they remember entire swatches of time in great detail.
The most moving example of one way this works was the elderly dancer who didn’t recognize anyone anymore. The present no longer existed for her. She lived inside a world no one could enter. Until they played a piece of music. Suddenly she began to move her arms to it, to dance as she danced it on stage many years ago. The old woman disappeared and the young ballerina took over.
I suspect this is what is happening to Kristina. It is why she focuses so much on how we helped each other hide from our fathers, why she remembers people I barely knew in high school, but can’t remember the name of her partner of twenty years. Those were the years we were active in many political and social organizations. Only when I understood this did I also understand she is living in those times with me as if it were the present. Me and those barely remembered people are the most real thing in her life right now.
My heart breaks for this amazing woman with a mind that could entertain any subject, any topic, and who could research the most obscure reference and come up with its origins. Her mind was truly a wondrous thing to experience. To have it trapped so cruelly in those times makes it all the more horrible.
And yet, in my sadness there are many things that made me laugh with a type of oh my god she didn’t oh yes she did type laughter. One of those came when I went to look for an old email in the account we shared for our political blog. I noticed she had logged in and sent some emails. Considering the state of her brain, I thought it best to see who she wrote to and what she said in case she reverted back to some of our more…ahem…radical days.
She wrote to everyone I knew since junior high school, using contact information that remarkable brain was still able to glean from the internet. Research was her job for thirty years. It’s hardwired in her. She’s good at it. Too good.
Some I have kept in contact with, but not like that. Not detailed like that. And there was one giant misfire. She wrote them and sent them as me. For the last weeks I’ve been joking about the horror of receiving an email that says hi we went to high school together. And now some of these poor unsuspecting people did. A couple of them weren’t even people I knew. They were people she knew.
I’ve avoided sending anything to the list she made up for me of people I must contact to help her close the circle. She convinced herself it was essential and when she wants to convince you, her language becomes the stuff of ancient orators. She can speak from the mountain tops and it’s hard to say no. So I played along, wrote the emails but didn’t send them, edited things in and out to amuse her, confessed things I would never confess. It was fun, cathartic even. I only succumbed once and sent a poetry book that she insisted I send. I did because it was a harmless gift and since people buy a lot of them I figured maybe they’d enjoy it too. Out of nowhere but still harmless. But for the rest of them I’ve been finding excuses, debating whether it’s fair to lie and say yes I sent them. I heard from them. They were delighted to hear from me. I don’t want to lie to her. It would feel wrong. I think she knows this so she did it for me.
When someone has known you since you were 14 years old, you have no secrets from each other. This was made very clear when I read some of the emails. Yes, she knows me all too well. But also, there’s a part of her brain that blurs the line when it comes to what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours. It became what is yours is also mine. She took pieces of my emails to her that were answers to questions she asked me about my high school years and the years that came after…up to 1975. I gave her some very honest answers. She wrote back with her honest answers. And then behold, pieces of mine and pieces of hers all ended up in the same email from me.
I cringe a bit. And I laugh a bit. And I changed the login information on that account. I was briefly tempted to write the ones she sent these emails to and try to explain, but after thinking about it, they might be a bit concerned to receive yet another very personal and detailed email from someone they haven’t seen in 50 years or in a couple cases, don’t even know. Fortunately, she only wrote to those whose names she remembered, whose names she recognized. I am very grateful she never made it to the 90’s, and just the idea of it made me delete all those old contacts I never ever want to accidently ever send anything to. Ever.
And I forgive her because I know a year from now I’ll look back on this and wish more than anything she was still here to do it all over again.
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