Forgetful Lucy

I’ve just finished watching a movie called “50 First Dates” – not the first time I’ve seen it.

It’s a sweet, thoughtful, challenging comedy about a guy (Adam Sandler) who lives in Hawaii and falls in love with a girl (Drew Barrymore) who has lost her short term memory and wakes up every morning thinking it’s the same day, the day when she was injured in a silly car accident, damaging her temporal lobe.

Judging by the dedication at the end, I would guess that the star, Adam Sandler, lost a father to dementia.

I’ve avoided watching this but just lately I have wanted to re-visit it and it has given me a lot to think about.


The first time I saw it, the concept of short term memory loss was just a comedy device to me.  I thought this was just a humorous  riff on the nature of love.  That was before my mother’s dementia became obvious.  I see it now with very different eyes.


The idea of forgetting everything that happened today is a pretty cute one when combined with a lovely, smart  young woman and a passionate, quirky  young man .  Both are in good physical health and have people who look out for them all the time. But as the Sandler character says in a particularly painful exchange with the girl’s father, “What happens down the road ?”  When a  loved one in advanced old age has near-total short term memory loss, it’s a different story.


Memory is not just a fun thing to have or a handy accessory for dating.  It might (though I doubt it) be  entertaining to answer the same question 50 times and enjoy 50 first kisses but it’s not at all entertaining when the same question comes up dozens of times a day, month after month, and has to be answered every time as if this is the first time.  Memory is to a very great extent what makes us who we are, what makes us civilized, what makes us human.  Take that away and you are left with the need to help someone reconstruct the world they find themselves in, almost from scratch, every single day.  If someone doesn’t do this for them, a person with memory loss slowly loses what made him or her a unique, special individual who was known and loved, becoming a sort of living ghost.  Not funny at all, and that’s without going in to all the other functional breakdowns that come when we revert to early childhood – the toileting emergencies, the reluctance to wash, the petulance, the loss of empathy.  I can’t see anybody making a comedy out of that.


There’s a song that the hero sings in this film on one of the many first dates he has with Lucy, the heroine – a day when he hits upon the happy ruse of making a videotape (it’s quite an old film) to play to her each morning to bring her up to speed with the time she’s lost and explain why there’s a strange man in her bed (and later, presumably, an unexpected foetus in her womb).  It’s such a sweet, lovely song: “Forgetful Lucy”.  Watching the film tonight it brought a tear to my eye.


These days when I go to see mum, as often as not, she is sitting with a roomful of other very old ladies, listening in rapture to a DVD of a concert which the care home staff have discovered has a calming effect on them.  So she is not hearing or seeing it for the first time, but from her point of view, she is, and it’s magic.  She especially enjoys “Ave Maria” and I can see why – the singer has an exceptional pure, female voice and the melody is so generous and forgiving.  But I can’t cry about it in front of mum because she wouldn’t understand and it might upset her.  So I just say (again) what a wonderful voice that is, and then again we have the same conversation we’ve had every day since she has been there about how there are lots of strangers about (visitors) and how the lady next door to her is a single lady and how long it’s been since my last visit (usually one day).

The film declares that love can overcome the absence of shared memories.  I wonder if that is true.  I guess in the next few years, or however long the dementia process is going to continue, I’m going to find out.


~ by fightswithivy on January 12, 2015.

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