Experiencing History: A Journey from Oral History to Performance
I discovered oral history and Alzheimer’s disease at the same time. Ironically, just as I began to see the value of preserving peoples memories on tape, I learned that my mother was losing her memory to Alzheimer’s. I started to dream about her almost every night. Each time the nightmare was different. Sometimes, I would just be crying and telling a friend about my mom. She or he would try to comfort me and convince me that everything would be all right. Other nights I watched my mom crying from a distance, but I could not reach her and could not help her. A few times she even died in my dreams. For over a month, Alzheimer’s crept into my mind this way—during each evening when I hoped to rest and forget about reality. (Every night I wished I could wake up the next morning and find out that the doctors had made a mistake, but instead I woke up feeling drained and scared about the future.) This disease incensed me—because of my mother’s age, because of my age. On June 5, 1994, a few weeks before the diagnosis, we celebrated her fifty-fifth birthday. I had just turned twenty-six. We still had so many things to do as mother and daughter. I had imagined us going places and doing things together as we always had—hiking, shopping, and visiting museums. For many years we were still able to do these things, but gradually I became a constant observer, watching for clues and signs of her weakness—in her and in me. As I write this a decade later, my mother still has a physical presence in my life, but now her memory has deserted her. There are only flickers of her former self in an occasional smile or a knowing look.
KeywordsChild Care Oral History Child Care Center Historical Insight Constant Observer
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