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Some Advantage in Forgetting

[Robert Leleux writes about his grandmother JoAnn's Alzheimer's...]

“The wonderful thing about Alzheimer’s,” she once quipped after her diagnosis, “is that you always live in the moment.”

This was a zinger intended to conceal her frustration at having forgotten the punch line to one of her signature anecdotes. But it was, nevertheless, quite true. Through the haze of our grief, my grandfather Alfred and I began noticing that, along with her memories, JoAnn’s grudges, hurt feelings, worries and regrets were disappearing. In fact, within a year, she seemed happier than ever, more present and at peace.

Like King Lear, as JoAnn lost reason, she gained clarity. And as with Lear, her dementia provided her the chance to meet her estranged daughter, my mother, for the first time again. Their chronic conflict had been among the great sorrows of my life; but suddenly, the past was, quite literally, forgotten.

- Robert Leleux, "Finding Joy in Alzheimer’s," New York Times, February 16, 2012