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Just because you're paranoid ...

Since reading "Still Alice," I think about Alzheimer's a lot. I fantasize about what life would be like for my husband and daughter if I did have that disease.

I got in the car one morning to drive my daughter to the bus, and pushed the button that turns on the Prius. Nothing happened. I looked at the dashboard and saw that the only light that had appeared was a small key icon with a line through it. That didn’t do it for me. I said, without expecting an answer, “What gives?” And my daughter, who did not drive, replied, “Do you have your purse?”

The Prius has what’s called a "keyless entry." You carry a fob that communicates with the car and as long as it’s in the vicinity of the ignition you’re good to go. The fob lives in a zipped pocket in my purse. I never leave the house without my purse. My purse was in the house.

Later, I was working out with a trainer at the gym. He demonstrated something and then went to get a floor mat. I immediately forgot the specifics of what he had shown me.

Then I read a book called "Still Alice," by Lisa Genova, about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s. The protagonist is about my age, but much more accomplished, a professor at Harvard (which underscored how much she had to lose compared to the rest of us). Literary criticism aside, I found the book disturbing, primarily because now I had something else to worry about.

I’ve had a bad memory all my life. I inherited it from my mother, who, by the way, is still as sharp as the proverbial tack. I always make lists of things to do so I’ll remember to do them. If I run to the store for a couple of things without writing them down, I’ll recite them all the way there so I won’t forget. I always knew this behavior indicated a somewhat compulsive nature, but I didn’t think it foreshadowed Alzheimer’s.

Since reading "Still Alice," I think about Alzheimer's a lot. I fantasize about what life would be like for my husband and daughter if I did have that disease. I wonder if I’d have the courage, not to mention the wherewithal, to check out before it became too problematical for all of us. When these thoughts get overwhelming, I chastise myself for being maudlin and melodramatic. I remind myself that there’s no family history of Alzheimer’s, and the likelihood that I will fall prey to it is slim. Then I remember the old chestnut, "just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you," and I start to worry all over again.

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