Friday, June 24, 2011

The Language of Memory

Here is my Friday afternoon science lesson....apparently, in brain scans, music fires up the medial prefrontal cortex and triggers a memory.  The memory runs through the head and brings images of places, people and incidents to mind.  Strong responses to music...ones that trigger our most pronounced memories....elicit the greatest activity on brain scans.  That is why stroke victims can access lyrics before they remember language and also why Alzheimer's patients can still remember songs from long ago.

My mother is mostly silent these days.  It is hard to determine what is going on in her mind.  My wish to communicate with her and the loss of our communication has been so hard to sit with.  I decided to make her a song list on my ipod and bring it in with earbuds.  The songs elicited strong feelings within me as many were songs we sung together in my childhood.  I had no illusions about this endeavor but knew the outcome if I didn't at least try.  I held her hand, turned on the music and watched as she closed her eyes and smiled gently, her head moving ever so slightly to the music, a memory perhaps unbidden,  but present none the less.  Today was a good day!

                                                      Mary's Playlist

  • My Darling Clementine
  • This Land is Your Land
  • Tennessee Waltz
  • How Much is that Doggie in the Window
  • America the Beautiful
  • Your a Grand Old Flag
  • Yellow Rose Of Texas
  • Crazy (Patsy Cline rendition)
  • God Bless America

Friday, June 17, 2011

This ones for Kate....

I'm currently 40,000 feet above the earth flying towards the West coast of Florida.  Truth be told, it feels like we are hurtling willy nilly through space, out of control and destined for a hard landing.  Needing a respite from the cold rainy spring which is New Hampshire these days, I'm off to visit a dear friend. loyal readers probably need some respite from Alzheimer's.  I know I do.
Today I write about flying or more to the point, my utter and complete abhorrence of it.  I worked at an aviation college for five years and sat across from many a would-be pilot.  Suffice to say, in spite of many questions and well spoken answers, the whole concept of how this big air bus stays up is lost on me.  I'm just glad it does.  I am a hyper vigilant passenger.  That's my head you see sticking out in the aisle completely focused on air mask and inflatable cushion instructions.  I count the rows to the nearest exit in case the lights go out and I am forced to crawl towards safety.  I memorize this number and quiz myself at least twice before landing.  I never volunteer to sit at an exit.  I can't commit to selflessness in the face of abject terror.  It's fight or flight for me!
Though not a superstitious person on the ground, when it comes to flying...all bets are off.  I never get off when they ask for volunteers even if it means a free ticket to somewhere else.  That next flight they put me on could be my undoing.  I also have a glass of tomato juice as soon as the attendant comes round for drink orders.  This is the only place I drink tomato juice as for some weird reason, I consider it good luck.  I hate to fly alone and here I am today...solo!  Call me selfish, but if I'm going down...let someone I love be with me.
I am flying Southwest today and had forgotten that staff are trained in sarcasm and comedy.  In this setting, I can find no appreciation when the pilot calmly announces:  Ba Da Bing, Ba Da Bing, This Boeing is Going!!  Nor do I find humor when the attendant announces that we need to keep our seat belts fastened so that we don't roll on top of someone in the event of a disaster.  Not laughing folks....not at all, though the rest of the passengers manage some chuckles and I heard a pretty big guffaw down in Business class.
I take inventory of my fellow travelers.  An aging rocker with a battered guitar case, a Rod Stewart hairdo and what looks to be fine motor tremors in his hands sits across the aisle and a business traveler who promptly shut his eyes when I sat down is next to me.  There are a beautiful pair of red stiletto heels poking into the aisle about 4 rows down but that is all I have time to see before the pilot announces that we have arrived and will be on the ground in 15 minutes.  I wait for the tell tale noise that the landing gear are being engaged and cross my fingers that all will be well.  I know that friends and memories to be made are on the other side.
My mother loved to travel, loved to fly...she greeted each turbulent bump with an eye roll and a giggle.  I'd be wise to have some of what she was having.