The saddest repeated sight of my youth was seeing young apple trees die. There were originally 8 on my property; on my parents' property. After a rare New Jerseyan hurricane claimed three of them we tried to plant new, young saplings. Splints to fight the gravity, fences to fight the deer, but the death of them was (that summer, and the two after) from a much more sinister foe: the gypsie moth.
Gypsie moths feed on the leaves of a tree. Fuzzy and camoflauged the caterpillars set upon trees of all sizes and eat sparingly from May to late June; they are barely noticed at this point. After the moths mate in July they lay their eggs in spidery nests which are notoriously visible and notoriously hard to erradicate. After the eggs hatch the larvae swarm the tree. If their appetite is satiated with less than 50% of the foliage the tree can handle up to three years of the abuse and still have enough water and food reserves to, as they say, keep on keeping on. More than 50% defoliation for even one year can be devastating to the survival of the tree. A younger tree, without years of food reserves and root structure to pull up extra water, succumbs quietly to this infestation. To these young trees, the silvery tents of the gypsy moth are a harbringer of things to come.
On the good days, reflecting back, I like to imagine this is what is happening inside my mind. With the disease choking synapsi and interrupting the least nimble of neurons.
They report that 1 out of 3 people know somebody with Alzheimer's Disease and that by the year 2050 there could be 16 million Americans who fall victim to the illness. Nearly half of all people over age 85 are affected by the disease, as are 10% of people 65 - 85. Early onset, younger than 50 years old, is very rare and requires heriditary conditions for the illness to show up in one's genome. Younger than 30 is virtually unheard of.
There are good days... here and there and for hours in-between. It's a blessing in some regards; last summer I made a distillation column one weekend and left notes on a simple recipe. When I swam all the way back to the surface five weeks later there was a glass waiting. So that was the good. The bad was the five weeks of lost memories, the five weeks of being sat in the yard on a sunny day, or being sat on the porch in a rainstorm, or being... the five weeks' worth of lost memories of being hurt most of all.
It isn't like a broken leg, that your cure with bedrest, or a cold that you cure with a pill. When your mind becomes victim to an ailment there's no fighting it, because the very tool to fight is corrupted. You just take your punches and wait for the storm to clear. Early on the good times were good times, and once ever six months I'd maybe miss out on a weekend. Then the period became smaller and the intensity increased to the point where it's a weekend here and there I get, and it scares me that it always feels like borrowed time.
This note thusfar has taken two days to compose.
I used to be afraid of heights, later I would climbed a tree higher than my house. I used to have dreams where I would trip and fall forever, and after decades learned how to fly in my dreams. I used to be afraid of the dark; one night I let the fear consume me, wash through my being, and created the foulest imagination to scare me up half the night. I never feared the unknown dark again. I used to be afraid of drowning by a foreign body of water, with no land in sight.
I'm still afraid of drowning... but now I fear it'll be by land.