First prologue draft from His Name Was Tony
OK, so many of you know I’m writing a book for the last two years. It’s not been easy, if it were I’d be near the end now, and I wouldn’t need the grandmother praying to the Sacred Heart for me every night before tuning in to Niall Boylan. Honestly there have been times I feel like running away from anything to do with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. But I am a glutton for punishment and Tony’s story needs to be told.
For those who don’t know me I am writing a book about my father Tony McMahon. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 58. I was 19. Those seven years and eight months were the toughest of my family’s life until he passed, aged 66. It changed everything. It still does.
So I am going to post the epilogue a draft (ITS A FIRST DRAFT – GO EASY).
“So…. what did you think?”
“Why would anyone want to erase their memory? I don’t get it.”
We had just finished watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, which told a story about a former couple who had their memories of each other erased because their break-up had been rough. Halfway through the film, Jim’s character realises he doesn’t want to forget Clementine (Kate) despite the bad memories of the arguments, the drawn out silences over a meal or the cooling period when two people begin to lose the connection. We begin to see the other side of the relationship, these sweet and loving memories Joel (Carrey) realises are too important to erase. Diving into his subconscious he begins to run away from those erasing parts of his brain with his memory of Clementine.
As the credits rolled my father questioned why someone would willingly want part of their conscious or sub-conscious erased. What was poignant about that line in that moment is that my father hadn’t been given the choice. He didn’t even know he hadn’t been given the choice. Normally this would not be the conversation I’d have with him after watching a movie like Eternal Sunshine. I would have begun to spout theories of how I would support the idea of people selectively removing painful memories from their brain because they are simply too hard or painful to live with. Ultimately this film shows us that this is impossible because to forget an entire part of your life and choose the spotless mind in this world you must sacrifice the joyous and happy times along with the bad. There was choice – do it or don’t – but you don’t get to choose what they take from you.
How do you explain all that to a man who has Alzheimer’s for over a year and didn’t know it?
“I dunno Dad” I answered. I did though. The first time I watched this film I took the opposite approach to the message, because I wanted to erase my own painful memories. And after watching it with my father he nailed me to a wall, asking a simple and valid question I never thought about. For years I would wonder what was going on in his mind. This was the closest I ever got.
I could never truly answer him in the manner I would have. He was losing a little bit of his memory every day, but here he was discussing memory loss, unaware that this disease was destroying his own.
He never knew. We never told him. He wouldn’t have handled it otherwise. I knew after his analysis of that film he would hate the brutal awareness at the destruction of his “beautiful brain” as my mother put it. It took everything away from him but his own name.
I never watched the film again.