Remember Mixtapes? Your favorite songs recorded off the radio onto one cassette tape you loved to play over and over. You knew the words; you sang along. Those songs were familiar and comforting.
Remember when your favorite mixtape got stuck in your car radio on the way to school? You put it in and it started playing weird; the music was all wrong. You pulled it out and the tape unraveled.
After school you try to rewind it with a pencil. It takes hours. Finally, the tape is back in the case – it looks good on the outside – and you pop it in the player. One of two things happen: 1) it plays but many of the words are missing and songs are messed up, or 2) it gets suck again and unravels.
Oh, the first time or two it unravels you may be able to put it right with no problems, but, eventually, it will be completely broken.
Once it’s that broken, you can forget recording over that tape. The magnetism on the tape is messed up and won’t hold. That tape will no longer record, no matter how many times you try. But it’s the only tape you have of those songs; you love that tape. So you keep putting it in the player, and it just get more and more messed up.
Her brain is kinda like that. It’s the only one she has, but it’s messed up. It’s broken. She has dementia due to Alzheimer’s. This disease has caused her brain to become broken, unraveled. When she speaks, the words are messed up; the music is all wrong. Nothing new can be recorded anymore.
But I love her; she’s the only one of her I have! And her voice is familiar and comforting, so I listen. I listen carefully, trying to figure out what song she is trying to play, what she’s trying to communicate.
And when she unravels, I carefully, lovingly try to help put thing back to as right as I can. As right as that once beautiful brain that played my favorite familiar and comforting tunes can ever be in that broken, unraveled state.
No, her tape won’t record anymore. Her words are jumbled, and her music is scratchy.
But I remember how they used to sound. I remember the beautiful sounds, the upbeat and fun music, the soft comforting melodies. I remember when we jammed together through the most important moments in my life. Her voice was always there, in the background, encouraging me through hard things, cheering my successes, and empathizing with my pain.
So, even though her tape is broken and unraveled, I’ll keep singing those songs. I sing them for both of us. And maybe she’ll be able to sing a few words with me.