Swallow Press has come out with a second edition of The Last of His Mind, the book I wrote about my father’s Alzheimer’s.
Doing some research for the book’s new introduction, I was stunned by something I learned about my grandmother. I explain, in the introduction:
I was good with my father, but terrible with my mother’s mother....
Recently I was trying to figure out when she died. My guess was about 1969, and I went online to see if that was right. To my dismay, I discovered that she lived on in that Connecticut nursing home until 1975, three years after my mother died—and not once, in all that time, did I ever go to see her. I don’t know if anyone did. Not my brother, he admits. Not my cousin. Perhaps we all thought it was useless, because she wouldn’t know who we were. But to imagine her in that home, old and confused and alone, now horrifies me. It’s true that I was out of the country for half those years, wrapped up with my marriage and divorce and young son. But Gran had been a warm and lovely presence when I was a child. Didn’t I even wonder how she was doing? How can I, and the rest of us, have abandoned Anna Taylor Lemont so completely? It torments me.
And across the U.S. today, how many Alzheimer’s patients live as my grandmother did, with rarely or never a visit from family and friends? It seems a travesty, and I’ve been part of it. It’s an indication, I think, of how difficult and painful this disease can be for all who are touched by it.