by Erin Murphy

For C.J.

Four million Americans have Alzheimer's disease.

____________________________You have one father.

The neurons in the victims' brains
contain protein filaments called tangles.

____________________________He points to his head and says,
____________________________I'm not okay in here.

Those with the least education suffer
the highest rate of the disease.

____________________________When the nurse's aide calls him professor,
____________________________he lifts his head a little and smiles.

In the late stages, they forget that they've forgotten.

____________________________You give your father his birthday gift-
____________________________a picture of his grandson-
____________________________and he says, This you, I mean,
____________________________then you, I mean...I don't remember
____________________________what I mean.

Ultimately, victims' pasts are erased entirely.

____________________________You remember Friday night dinners out,
____________________________your father proud he could afford
____________________________shrimp cocktail all around. You remember
____________________________him pitching, pitching, pitching to you
____________________________in the backyard, then shrugging
____________________________when you turned to the piano.
____________________________You remember the way he screamed in a whiskey rage
____________________________over your broken bike, then replaced it
____________________________the next day, no apologies.

As her disease progressed, the novelist
Iris Murdoch liked to watch Teletubbies.

____________________________Your father lies awake in a darkened room,
____________________________his Yankees cap on his head, his hands
____________________________crossed over his chest.

Death, when it comes, is a formality.

Like please, thank you
and I'm sorry.

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