“We are all of us held together by words; and when words go, nothing much remains.”
Martin Amis said this in reference to his father, Kingsley, who lost his ability with language after a fall 2 months before he died. A cruel blow for someone meticulous and skilled with words.
It made me think of the documentary about assisted dying by Terry Pratchett. As an Alzheimer’s sufferer, he has been exploring options, because he says when he can no longer write (or dictate which is how he writes now), can no longer communicate, he will want to end his life.
Losing clarity of thought, losing language, is a terrifying thought. But inevitable as we live longer, the brain deteriorating like other organs.
When a person no longer has the ability to think clearly or communicate their thoughts, do they know who they are? Do they stop being themselves? Are they trapped in a hollow body that others know and love only through their memories of who they once were?
I would rather not think about this. It’s too depressing to contemplate at 8am on a Saturday morning.
If you watch the documentary, you watch a lovely man die. His wife was there, supporting him and holding herself together.
It worries me that I’ve been losing words for some time now – a year, 2 years, longer? I think – I hope – that rather than something more sinister, it’s due to having small children and trying to juggle numerous things at the same time: housework, childcare, writing, reading, thinking, paid work, unpaid work. But not in that order (housework comes last). Multi-thinking as well as multi-tasking.
I picture my mind as a train station with dozens of tracks criss-crossing and going off in different directions. There are engines and carriages on the tracks – some have barely moved from the starting point, others are abandoned half-way through their journey, with only a few making it to their destination. It’s a picturesque route, but inefficient.
That’s the state of my mind, which i try to order with lists.
I read that distraction – not giving something your full attention to remembering something – is the most common cause of a poor memory. I read this in an article called something like ‘how to improve your memory’. But – and this is ridiculous – I moved the article from my desktop to somewhere else, and now i can’t remember where i put it.
It worries me that i can’t find the right word when I’m talking to someone, or writing. I rely on my thesaurus too much. I’m sometimes terrified… no, that’s not the word i want. Something else. Something deeper.
p.s. I don’t know what I think about assisted dying. It was so sad to see these people leave early, but they were obviously comforted by their decision.