I'm now attending a second class besides the one on Greek classics. This one, called "Brainstorming 101", is following a Teaching Company DVD of lectures on neurology. The class has been going for over a year and is almost done. It's led by a man who seems to have credentials in neurology (come in late and miss the professor's self-introduction, but he keeps referring to his work at OHSU).
This week, the class was on Alzheimer's. Talking about Alzheimer's with people who are my age and older is a very focused matter. The topic is not theoretical. Some of my classmates have been or are currently caretakers of Alzheimer's patients -- one woman this afternoon spoke feelingly of the burden of being married to a man who is no longer anyone whom she knows or who knows her. And all of us in that room worry that we are hearing our own future described.
Some people wanted to insist that there are ways to avoid it -- eating Indian food was mentioned, since apparently the incidence of Alzheimer's is lower in the Indian subcontinent. (The professor tried to quickly explain the difference between correlation and causality, but those who want to believe were not deterred.) Others wanted to discuss extending Oregon's "Death with Dignity" act to allow people suffering early stages of Alzheimer's to specify how far they should be allowed to deteriorate before they are allowed legal suicide: "When I can no longer spell my own name ..." or "when I can no longer remember my own birthday ...".
It was a fairly grim class but one blessedly free of euphemism or the imagined invincibility of the young. The professor was not feeling well, so he asked that we postpone our discussions until the next class in two weeks. My mother died of Alzheimer's. This is live stuff for me. I'll be there.