There is a nickname given to me by a dear friend (thanks J). It is a secret and delicious pleasure. hCloud, my bequeathed moniker, is a play on Apple’s iCloud and my name. This soubriquet was bestowed upon me many years ago in deference to my perceived superior memory. The altruist in question was admittedly going through a divorce, studying a law degree and trying to raise two children under five. A small slip of any trivial detail would surely be forgiven. However, the epithet she imparted on me has stuck and frankly, I love it. Call it my superpower. And be warned. I use it. (*I can also store a bucket load of useless information but you get the idea).
So for me, the thought of losing memory is too frightening to comprehend. Forgetting to bring home a loaf of bread from the supermarket causes no end of self-deprecation. The notion that an invisible force could creep up on me and take away such a precious part of my being is unimaginable.
The Things We Keep is the story of a young woman, Anna, with early onset Alzheimer’s who enters a residential care facility as she begrudgingly accepts that she no longer has the capacity to care for herself. While her wit is still relatively sharp, day-to-day activities are now wrought with unusual complexities. A former Paramedic, the carer now becomes the cared. Coupled with the new and unfamiliar surrounds of her new-found imprisonment, her co-residents are mostly the elderly and infirm. There is only one other co-habitant within 30 years of her cohort, Luke, and he too has begun the crippling journey into dementia. Insightfully much of the novel is told from Anna’s perspective so the reader really gets to know Anna’s charismatic personality and have front row access to the betrayal of her own mind. She attempts to stave off her fate through her relationship with Luke: they become co-conspirators in love.
Not a horror story The Things We Keep is horrific in the mercilessness it conveys. The power of relationships is explored through some wonderful exchanges. The elderly residents are as beguiling as they are batty: an uplifting antidote to the malady of the weak. Secondary protagonist Eve counters the bleak reality of Anna’s inevitable demise and Eve’s daughter Clementine provides a support act of naïve kindness and affection.
As I travelled through this tale, I began to understand that memory loss is, at its core, a naked vulnerability. A person becomes dependent on those around them, strangers or otherwise. The act of disempowerment is one of life’s cruel twists that indiscriminately attacks its prey. Like an unseen tide capsizing an unsuspecting ship, all attempts to remain steady are swiftly humbled by the omnipresence of its grip.