Monday, September 16, 2013

Love and Dementia

This is one of those things I am going to write about regardless of being sure that someone, somewhere, must have said it before; sure that a hole in my education makes me an unwitting philosophical parrot. But, hey -- they say Newton and another guy simultaneously discovered the principles of gravity and motion; that Darwin and another cat came up with the theory of evolution in, like, the same year. One just published first. I'm probably about a thousand years behind with this...

Whatever the case, I was wondering what it is about a person that makes us love him or her. What is that thing -- or what is the combination of things -- that causes us to love? (I mean this in both the romantic and familial sense...)

Is it that the person is nice to us? -- guides us?


Is it in the qualities of that person's personality?

Is it what he or she can do? -- talents? -- skills? -- achievements?

Is it demeanor? -- quirks of movement or speech? -- modes of ambulation?

A strength that we both admire and envy?

I imagine it is all of these things, combined. Right?

So far, so good. But...

...if these are all part of the "formula" for love, what causes us to keep loving someone once all of these things have gone? -- in the case of dementia, for instance. When those things that have made the person who we know them to be have been are taken away, what makes us love him or her, still?

The obvious answer is memory: We remember who they were and our remaining love is really for that remembered person. But I don't buy that. I think it has to run deeper.

I was being cryptic with earlier posts, but I will come out and say it -- why not? My dad is suffering from some kind of, as yet, undiagnosed dementia. But what I have noticed is that even though he has trouble thinking and expressing, the essence of the man I love and respected all my life remains, somewhere. No matter how confused he gets; no matter how many of his qualities, as listed above, seem to fade, I still remain his son and he my dad. (Sometimes he can't remember how to open the refrigerator, but he still seems to remember to say he loves me. Take that, Fate.)

If my love for my dad is based on who he was, or upon what he does (or did) for me as a person, it should be fading. But it's not.

There are two real types of magic in the world: love and music. He and I have always shared both. One of those might have left him, now, but the other remains in both of us.

It just reinforces my annoying instinctual idea (and, I think, in some form, Confucius's, too) that truth is not a concept; truth is a feeling. Love is truth, and it cannot be reduced to parameters and circumstance.

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