Continuing the theme of the elephant symbolizing dementia, this piece, from the Fractured Memories series, speaks to my fear that I will inherit dementia from my father. The lyrics to the song in the sheet music “Dat Dere” are about a child asking her dad all kinds of questions, including if she can have “dat big elepant ober dere.” There are so many traits I hope that I have inherited from my father, and in so many ways, I’ve strived my whole life to be more like him. And in so many ways, I am just like him. Growing up I looked like him, we had the exact same sense of humor, the same taste in music, the same showmanship, the same ruinous need to make people like us, and the same fierce love for our friends. And, for the most part, I’m proud of how much I resemble who he was. But now there’s this thing that I could also inherit from him that I want no part of.
I don’t think it’s possible to have a parent get dementia at such a young age (he was diagnosed at age 65, though he’d been showing signs for a couple years) and not worry that you’re going to have the same future. When a parent is old and gets it, sure, you worry, but you can kind of rationalize and say that it’s part of getting old. Not so when someone gets it young. Your future was stretched out for another 60 years (my grandparents all lived to be at least 90 and didn’t show signs of senility until into their 90’s), and that just got shortened by about 25 years. That’s scary.
I know you can’t live your life worrying, because you could just as easily get breast cancer, or hit by a bus, or stabbed with a venomous platypus spur (okay, that last one is probably not all that likely), but still, your odds have gone up if you have a parent with dementia. And dying from dementia really sucks, because the disease steals who you are many years before you die, and then you’re just this shell wandering around and costing your family money and causing them heartache and maybe a few blessed moments of hilarity.
So if it’s all the same to you, universe, I don’t think I want “dat big elepant ober dere.”