top of page

The Lost Memories and Metamorphosed Relationships

I have an oft wandering mind - it wanders off when I'm reading, or cooking, or gardening, or doing something else. It's probably the age that makes the mind wander off to the memories of bygone days with healthier parents, with our healthier younger selves, and the relationships that were.

আজি এ প্রভাতে রবির কর
কেমনে পশিল প্রাণের পর,
কেমনে পশিল গুহার আঁধারে প্রভাতপাখির গান!
না জানি কেন রে এত দিন পরে জাগিয়া উঠিল প্রাণ।
জাগিয়া উঠেছে প্রাণ,
ওরে উথলি উঠেছে বারি,
ওরে প্রাণের বাসনা প্রাণের আবেগ রুধিয়া রাখিতে নারি।
থর থর করি কাঁপিছে ভূধর,
শিলা রাশি রাশি পড়িছে খসে,
ফুলিয়া ফুলিয়া ফেনিল সলিল
গরজি উঠিছে দারুণ রোষে।

(English Transliteration)
Aaji E Probhate rabir kar
Kemone Poshilo praner par,
Kemone poshilo guhar aadhare probhatpakhir gaan!
Na jani keno re eto din pore jagiya uthilo pran.
Jagiya utheche pran. 
Ore utholi utheche bari,
Ore praner bashona praner aabeg rudhiya rakhite nari.
Thar thar kori kapiche bhudhar, 
Shila rashi rashi poriche khashe 
Fuliya Fuliya fenil shalil
Garoji uthiche darun roshe

(If you are interested in the translation of the poem, you can find one here.)

I suddenly recollected the aforementioned lines of a poem by Rabindranath Tagore while I was cooking today. This poem by Tagore is titled 'Nirjharer Swapnobhango' (The Awakening of the Fountain). Though I'm more into prose than poems, I remember this poem as our father often used to recite this poem to us. He loved reciting and used to remember long verses of many poems from Gitanjali. As I remembered this poem, I felt sad realizing that I will never get to hear his recitations anymore, nor will he request us to memorize poems from Gitanjali so that he can teach us how to articulate and modulate while reciting them.

Our father has always been a very independent and very responsible person who single-handedly handled all his professional, financial, and family matters without relying much on anyone. He has been there whenever we needed him. And that made all of us (his closest family members) overtly dependent on him and his decisions.

And then Alzheimer's took over...

During his early stages of Alzheimer's when he used to complain about forgetting names and forgetting little things, we attributed it to age-related memory loss. Even when he used to pass on Rs. 100/- instead of Rs. 10/- to rickshaw pullers little did we apprehend the cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's as he could conduct almost all of his activities without much trouble. The doctors and test results suggested dementia and Na, K imbalance.

So, fairly recently, when he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's at a relatively advanced stage, he has already lost his ability to form complete sentences; he has his frequent mood swings; his time sense, sleep cycles have become distorted; and worse, he doesn't recognize his family members most of the time. At times, he has his moments of clarity when he behaves like the normal person (the father and the husband) that he was, but it's rare. He has always been quite a disciplinarian who used to walk daily, shaved his beard daily, and did other routine works almost without fail. Nowadays, when he shaves his beard, or when he addresses us by name, or utters something familiar, or says a sentence without faltering, we understand that he has his bit of clarity then.

Now it has become a role reversal of sorts, where we (his family) have to take all important decisions pertaining to him and other by ourselves. The impatient ones among us have become more patient: with his mood swings, to his hurtful comments (read delusional and unintended), to his repetitive questions. He has become more of a child to us (his children) who needs to be handled with immense patience, with love, at times with fake threats to make him understand. This transition is an ongoing process and is not an easy one; for us, it had been more difficult as it was more sudden than gradual.

The person our father used to be, or the relation we had with our father, or our mother had with her husband has become a memory. Although we are very happy and lucky to have our father with us and we will have new memories with his present condition; we will no longer be able to have those chats with him that we used to, or he won't pamper us anymore with foods we loved to eat, or he won't be able to help us with our financial decisions, or he won't call us by our pet names, or we won't enjoy any movies together with him anymore, or we won't be able to see his expression of pride in our achievements, or he won't ask us what book we are reading, or we won't see him reading the newspaper to the minutest detail anymore.....

We will have to rebuild our relationships with him or refresh his memories every day, often numerous times a day where he will keep asking us who we are, what we do, where do we live, or where we remind him of the time of the day every hour or so, or that he already had his meal, or that he has to take his bath, and so on......

As I write this, on this day (21st September - Alzheimer's day), it's more a caution that the first signs of Alzheimer's are often undetected and the patients' behaviours misunderstood. It is also a remembrance to all of us to spend more time with our loved ones as much as possible and be aware of the first signs of Alzheimer's so the adjustment is gradual.


Have you had any experience with anybody with Alzheimer's in your family? I would like to hear about your experiences. Please feel free to share....

bottom of page