Friday, May 23, 2014

Memory and its impact on our lives #Alzheimer's #Asmsg #MustRead

I've personally lost both of my grandmothers to Alzheimers. It was devastating to see lively women become trapped within the walls of their minds'. Today I'm happy to feature Christoph Fischer and his new novel, "Letting Go," and his post on how memories define us. I welcome you to comment below. 
Christoph Fischer

What makes Alzheimers’ so terrible? What is it that makes a memory so important to one’s life that people compare its horrors to pain-inflicting diseases like cancer? You are alive and physically well, you eat and function as a human, but as an Alzheimer patient you are bound to be suffering, frustrated, depressed and unhappy.

Of course it is ridiculous to compare the two diseases, but while a cancer patient has still their awareness and choices, the Alzheimer sufferer is losing the core of their being, everything they ever were. 

How can you define yourself if you cannot remember? You have had children, but you won’t recognise them. You won awards, had a successful career, made people happy, but you don’t know any of it. Who are you and what are you doing on the planet? Who are the people around you? As the disease progresses, these things become more intense and you can live in a mental prison of fear and disorientation. Your brain won’t do as you want it to. The fear of losing ‘it’ altogether, for some is impossible to bear. You are about to lose everything that was ever precious to you.
That thought is frightening to all of us. It can happen to all of us. The worst stage seems to be when patients still notice that something is wrong. We all know how annoying it is when we just put something down and don’t remember where. 
Imagine that happening to you all the time, every day, and you get an idea of how it might feel.  The carers see their loved ones slowly drift away into a stranger.
Biddy’s husband Walter in my novel becomes obsessed with preserving memories – his own and others. He begins to write a family chronicle as a constructive outlet for his fears. He is an important character with his musings about preserving knowledge, memories and facts and he allowed me to bring in thoughts about the disease on a different and more reflective level.

I hope that I have managed to write about more than just the clinical side of the disease. I stuck to the early stages of Alzheimers’ in the story because it gave me the best opportunities to work these thoughts into the story. It allows me to look back at Biddy’s past but with still a lot of hope.

An excerpt of Letting Go…

For the next half hour he watched his wife as she was talking to and feeding the ducks in a pond in a nearby park. This was a very quiet time of day for the birds. School children were at class and mothers with young ones seemed to come out here a little later than this: the pond was all hers. It amazed him how much joy and entertainment his wife could gain from such a simple thing as feeding the ducks.
Her zest for life still showed frequently and sometimes even seemed completely unbroken by the disease. When she was first diagnosed with Alzheimers she had desperately tried to fight it and in the process she had suffered a lot. She had read all the books there were, taken supplements and tried to train her brain with exercises.
“Come to bed,” Walter had said to her one evening when she had spent several hours in the study with her brain teasers.
“But I must solve this puzzle,” Biddy shot back at him. “I can’t finish unless I get this right.”
“Do it tomorrow, love.”
“No,” Biddy hissed. “I need to do it now.”
“You are probably too tired to solve it tonight. You need sleep more than this exercise,” Walter tried again.
“Mind your own business,” she yelled and slammed her fist on the table.
Walter was so surprised at this uncharacteristic outburst; he stood frozen and had no reply ready. While he struggled to come up with a response to this unprecedented shouting over nothing Biddy doubled over on the desk and started to sob.
“I can’t do it, Walter,” she cried. “I just can’t do it.”
“You don’t need to do everything today. Do it tomorrow.”
“That’s not just it, Walter. I’ve forgotten something else but I can’t remember what it is. I know it is something really important that I must do. I should have written it down.”
Walter walked up to her and tried to hug her.
“Get off me,” she screamed and yanked his hand away. “You don’t know what it is like. Don’t patronise me!”
Walter wanted to shout back at her, to make her snap out of her mood, but he was just too surprised to think of what he could possibly say. His wife had never pushed him away before.
He left her in the study and went to bed. Biddy stayed up for hours turning the house upside down for clues as to what she had forgotten. He did not sleep a wink that night and many more to follow when his wife was on a mission to locate a misplaced item.
Fortunately, they eventually passed that very awkward period of her life and these days she no longer seemed to care and no longer wasted her time in agony over the spilled beans of her mind. He wondered if that was part of her complex drug regime. He suspected that the doctors had slipped her an anti-depressant or a sedative of sorts into her cocktail of daily pills. He would rather not know and so he never asked about it and only ever read the dosage instructions on the prescription sheet.
Biddy’s manners these days were innocent and childlike, just the way she had always been. Her optimism and her famous positive attitude had been the core of her character and she had helped many of her friends and family to overcome crisis after crisis with her unbreakable spirit.
Watching her being happy and joyful while feeding the stupid ducks he felt that for a moment everything was just as it always had been. He could see the young woman he had married underneath the wrinkles, the white hair and behind the blank stare she often had these days when she got confused.
Right now the bright light of her essence was visible and it warmed Walter on the inside. Such moments gave him the necessary strength to accept the things he was missing from his married life of late.
Book Blurb…
Time to Let Go is a contemporary family drama set in Britain.
Following a traumatic incident at work Stewardess Hanna Korhonen decides to take time off work and leaves her home in London to spend quality time with her elderly parents in rural England. There she finds that neither can she run away from her problems, nor does her family provide the easy getaway place that she has hoped for. Her mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and, while being confronted with the consequences of her issues at work, she and her entire family are forced to reassess their lives.
The book takes a close look at family dynamics and at human nature in a time of a crisis. Their challenges, individual and shared, take the Korhonens on a journey of self-discovery and redemption.
Book Links...

About the Author...
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany, near the Austrian border, as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he is still resident today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ was published in November 2012; 'Sebastian' in May 2013 and The Black Eagle Inn in October 2013. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.

1 comment:

Christoph Fischer said...

Thank you so much for this lovely feature Amber. Such an honour to be on your great blog :-)