My mom has become very sociable since she’s started losing her mind to Alzheimer’s. She never used to be. It’s as if all of the negative thoughts that kept her fearful of people and reluctant to fully engage have melted away, and she is like a carefree child.
“Hello,” she says, reaching out to touch the hand or arm or shoulder of every resident she encounters in the dining room at the assisted living facility where she lives. She goes out of her way to visit every table.
“I love your blouse,” she says.
She’s collecting votes to be elected sweetest resident in the facility. And if the election were today, she’d win.
“Your mother is a wonderful lady,” one woman says to me. “She’s a real sweetheart,” someone else says. My mom smiles demurely and moves on to her next greeting.
It’s not that she wasn’t a nice person before, but she was deeply insecure and inhibited. She was shy about talking to people, especially new people. I don’t know why — maybe because her father was an alcoholic or her family was poor, and she felt ashamed. She never went to college, and she always felt she couldn’t speak intelligently. She believed she wasn’t pretty. Whatever the reasons, Alzheimer’s has made a lot of that go away.
I can’t say Alzheimer’s has gifts, but I do have to wonder about the human brain and how it adapts for survival. We learn a lot of things over the course of our lives that help us get through the moment, but in the long term they get in our way. If only Alzheimer’s could be selective and rid people of only those memories they should never have formed in the first place.