Marty’s first stroke was in 2005, the next came at the first of 2006. Because of this assault on her brain her frame of reference for all things coincides with those the stroke dates. She is aware of all of the changes around her and knows new people have been added to our family. She knows the world has changed, she knows what has happened to her but when you ask her here and now questions she reverts back to her base of knowledge prior to the strokes, and that is 2005.
In 2005, Matt, our son, and his wife Sarah had been married only a couple of years, Erin was a senior at the University of Texas, I had just been divorced from my job of 25 years, we were both a tick over 50 and George Bush was president. That is Marty’s mental starting spot.
That’s why when I first told her about Erin’s pending nuptials Marty’s first reaction was that Erin, our baby daughter, wasn’t ready to be married, she wasn’t old enough to be married. Marty’s frame of reference for Erin is that she is still at the University of Texas and still 21, that’s her last anchor point for Erin. In Marty’s mind, Erin is stuck in 2005. This explains the “Oh Shit!!” comment when I told her Erin was with child (my daughter can’t be pregnant; she is “with child”).
Marty knows, she sees Erin as a young adult, she knows and she sees Erin as more mature, older and ready to be a mother, but she struggles to move past the really solid memory of Erin six years ago.
Marty knows Matt and Sarah have baby Noah, she knows Noah is a wonderful and miraculous addition to our lives but I think, in her mind’s eye, where we all develop critical basic assumptions, she still sees Matt and Sarah as young married faux adults still going through those first married years.
If you ask Marty how old she is she will almost always say 50, her age when she had the first stroke. If you ask the year, she says 2005, if you ask the president, she says George Bush and yet she voted for President Obama and knows who he is.
When you are on the dark side of 50 thinking of yourself as perpetually 50 is not such a bad thing. Seeing your children as forever young and new to life can be a bit disconcerting but is okay, especially if you still get the benefit of grandchildren; having George Bush as president forever, not so much.
Marty was always pretty apolitical, for years I had to insist she go vote, until President George Bush invaded Iraq. She did not like him, at all, she was adamant in her opposition to all things George and his policies, and yet somehow she is stuck with him for perpetuity. It’s a “Divine Comedy” level of hell.
I always gently help her when her memory gets stuck in the mud of the past. I simply remind her how old the kids are, how we love Noah, how gracefully we have both aged and that she voted for our current president Barack Obama. She at least feigns understanding and then moves on to the next thing.
In reality, I don’t think Marty really gives any of this much thought, she is much too focused on handling what is in the moment. She doesn’t dwell much on what was or what should be or what should have been. That saps needed energy from what is happening right now. I wish I could do that.