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Remembering exactly where these two little screws were in the midst of the chaos of my shop is one of the increasingly rare moments of clarity.
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Clarity Amidst the Chaos

Now I see it, now I don’t

Text and photo by Tom Hintz

Posted 3-31-2015

One of the confusing aspects about having Alzheimer’s is remembering that I did something odd but realizing that I have no idea if that was the first time I did it. Then there are the inexplicable moments of super clarity that seems to be totally at odds with a memory-based issue.

Last week I was knee-deep in a new RC plane build and my garage/shop area looked like a major RC bomb had gone off. I mentioned to my wife the frustrations of losing something I was working with and she said that perhaps straightening up the shop would help. I know that sounds like a logical solution but the way my mind is working these days it just might confuse the issue even more.

The other day I was using a chisel to cut holes in light plywood for a pair of switches on a plane. I finished the first hole and then could not remember what I was going to do next even though I had two switches, a big piece of plywood and one hole. I had to sit there and go over what I was doing a couple times before the second switch hole reentered my train of thought. I know that this was not the first time I’ve had an immediate memory whiff but trying to remember how many times it had happened in the past is wasted effort.

At the field I can have similar issues. Between flights when I need to adjust or fix something I can get to my tool box and forget what tool was needed. I have to look back to the plane and backtrack to refresh the thought to get the right tool. Put the transmitter in my hands and my mind seems to bring a clear portion of my brain on line and the conduit between my brain and fingers functions normally. I never feel at a loss when actually flying, even when things go wrong procedures that help me save the plane appear when needed just as they always have.

Last weekend at the flying field I had a new plane to try out which is always a bit stressful. While putting the canopy on me realized that the front two screws were too short. For some reason my mind flashed back to me setting the right screws down on a table overrun with parts, tool and various junk. I knew exactly where they were in the sea of confusion that was my shop at the moment. Those two screws were exactly what I would likely lose by cleaning up the shop and changing their location. For some reason my brain occasionally locks in on the act of putting something down apparently with no regard for how long ago that happened.

Put the transmitter in my hands and my brain seems to kick into a higher level of function and nobody really knows why.
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While this might sound hopeful the instances of my remembering things like this are increasingly rare and forgetting what I am doing with a tool in hand are more frequent. For instance, I meant to write this story last week while it was fresh in my mind. The problem with that kind of plan is that nothing is fresh in my mind when I want it to be. The few moments of clarity are most often but not always about something insignificant. And when I try to quantify such occurrences I have to factor in that there is a better than even chance that I am forgetting similar instances which may have occurred just minutes ago.

And so it goes. I know that I have to accept the reality of Alzheimer’s progressing through my brain but that does not stop me from pressing the fight against it. I try to focus on the little “wins” like remembering where those little screws were. It turns out that insignificance has little to do with my reality these days.

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