The number of different types of insurance I have as a single person in America is slightly unreasonable. Car insurance, health insurance, renter’s insurance, accidental death by business travel (whatever that is) insurance and so on and so on. But the most important thing in the world to me – my memory – is not insured. And I’m terrified.
I’m a relatively young human, yet I’ve already noticed my memory isn’t what it used to be. I can remember that I once saw Princess Diaries 2 in the movie theatre during a hurricane, but I can’t at all remember the name of the theatre, where it was, or what it looked like. I’ve lived in nine places, but I only remember five addresses. I’ve forgotten to pay my rent twice in the last four months and just last week, I had to Google the name of my own church. I can remember the color of eyeliner I wore the day my first high school boyfriend broke up with me, yet I now refer to where I had quite a few college classes as “that building on the corner with all the trees, I think it starts with an H, maybe a K”. The things I can remember are weird and random and the things I can’t remember are also weird and random.
What I’m saying is…I’m scared. We all should be. If my house burns down and melts my laptop, renter’s insurance allows me to go get a new one. But if I also lose the baseball Barry Larkin signed that one year we road-tripped to Spring Training, what will I have to remind me of such a wonderful family memory? Renter’s insurance can’t save that. It also can’t bring back the pictures my siblings colored for me at school or the Santa Claus candy dish my crafty mom and I made before Pinterest was cool. How can I insure my memory?
This has been keeping me up at night lately. Years go by as we make the memories of a lifetime, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll remember it all. Can we fix this? If I eat grapefruit and always sleep eight hours and floss every day, will my brain be healthy enough to keep track of everything I want it to? Everything I need it to?
Our fate only gets worse. Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease – the ultimate saboteur of the brain. Do you know what Alzheimer’s is? Allow me to demonstrate.
- Last year, my grandma drove herself to Macy’s. She picked out a food chopper that she thought I would like and she had Macy’s ship it to me, carefully telling the associate my address. She typed my number into her phone and called me later that week to see if I got her package. She came to visit me a month or two later, bringing tiny little containers of her infamous barbecue with her.
- Last month, my grandma called me. We talked about the Reds and her tomato plants in the backyard. Even though I had to remind her of a few things – my cousin’s name, the season, what time the game came on – she was correct in knowing her birthday was coming up.
- Last week, my grandma didn’t know my name but thought we had just taken a plane trip together. She sat in a chair in the house she’s lived in for 45 years and told us she wasn’t at home. She tried to iron the newspaper.
Alzheimer’s is ugly. And it destroys not only memories, but also lives. Until it impacted my life, I took my own memories for granted. Now I’m tempted to frantically write down everything I ever experience or want to remember, fearful that one day I won’t be able to.
I’ve been personally battling with this a lot lately. But it is a battle we all face. If you have a brain, you are at risk for Alzheimer’s. And no one has ever survived it.
I don’t know what to do, other than help increase awareness of the dire state of our brain health and the horrific effects of Alzheimer’s. We desperately have to do something to preserve our mental states, our brain health, our memories. I don’t know what the answer is, but together, I am hopeful we can make positive progress. In the meantime, I’ll be eating blueberries and drinking water and staying active and doing yoga and anything else to help keep my brain healthy. How else can I try to insure my memories?