I think about what this increasing memory loss will mean. I am human, I exist in community, I know myself through my memory. What will it be like not to be able to remember Marja’s name or what I just said? Will I still feel “normal” like I do now? So do I feel normal now? Currently, I feel just as much a person as ever. I forget a lot of things and I get confused sometimes, but those external symptoms don’t seem to change my consciousness. In terms of self-perception, I am just as much David Hilfiker as I have ever been. Things that I forget, of course, just disappear. I may know I should be able to remember them, but I don’t. Fortunately, I suppose, memory has never been my strong suit, so it’s not really part of my self-image. It’s almost the opposite of the Buddhist non-self: even as I change drastically, my consciousness is of the same “self.”
So mostly I worry about the future. What will it be like when …? But I am not given to know the future, especially in a disease like this where no one can really tell me what is was like even for them. It’s a little like death because no one can know what it’s like to die before they die, and then it’s too late to tell anyone else. Similarly, you can’t tell anyone else what it’s like when you’re confused about what’s being asked or can’t remember long enough to put it together.
All this is speculation, of course. I’ve noted several times before that staying in the present is not particularly painful, and the future isn’t here, so this worry doesn’t help anything. But if I want to share with you who are reading this memoir what’s actually happening now, this useless speculation and worry about the future are what’s happening now.
Am I worrying, though? Actually, I don’t think so. I just looked it up: The dictionary defines “worry” as a state of anxiety, being troubled by something. I certainly think a lot about the future, but I don’t feel real anxiety about it. Am I “troubled”? Again the dictionary defines “troubled” as being in distress or being afflicted. I don’t obsess about the future. I’ve said frequently that it doesn’t do any good to dwell upon the future, but it does help, I think, to imagine it. Imagining prepares me for what’s coming. Obviously, I can’t know for sure what’s coming. So if my imagining the future were worrying about the future, then it might be well to curtail the worrying. As it is, its primary value is to get me ready for what’s coming.
The elder lawyer we’d visited a month or so ago contacted us to let us know he couldn’t take our case because he was just too busy. So I asked around and last night a friend, Debi, gave me the name and email address of another elder lawyer I could contact. After I’d finished composing the email and sent it. Debi mailed me back to tell me I’d sent the email to her and not the other lawyer. I had apparently clicked Reply when I wrote the email and unintentionally sent it back to Debi. OK, that’s a mistake probably everyone has done at one time or another. So I pulled up what had sent to her and put it in to my Outbox to go to the other lawyer. A few moments later—fortunately before the email actually left my computer, I noticed I had done exactly the same thing again, almost sending it to Debi a second time. Fortunately I caught myself and sent it to the lawyer.