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Aw. dammit, anyway

Posted by Charles P. Pierce  August 24, 2011 10:57 PM

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The news about Pat Summitt is sad beyond words, especially for This Blog, who has a particularly nasty dog in this particular fight. Its father and all four of his siblings succumbed to Alzheimer's -- which you can read about here, if you like -- so it knows quite well the extraordinarily tough row Ms. Summitt and those close to her have to hoe.

(And, believe me, when it comes to collateral damage -- physical, psychological, and emotional -- Alzheimer's is a genuine sonuvabitch that way.) 

This Blog only spoke to her once, and it was by way of hello-how-are-you? at a coaches deal,  but there seems to be little question that she's got more than a little iron to her. There's some speculation now about whether or not she should try to continue to coach. This Blog can't tell you how happy it is that she's going to try. One of the great changes wrought by the increased public awareness of Alzheimer's -- and thank you, Nancy Reagan, you wonderful tough old dame, you -- is that people in the early stages of the disease are now speaking out while they still have the capacity to do so. For too many years, families with Alzheimer's patients hid them away -- See the above assigned reading for details -- and the guilt and shame became a symptom of the disease, Alzheimer's patients suffering from it most of all. 

How far have we come? In 1985, while on an errand a half-mile from his house, my father disappeared for three days and wound up in a drunk tank in Montpelier. The state cops told my wife that, maybe, he'd run off with his secretary. Today, it is unimaginable that, given the same situation, the police wouldn't immediately snap to Alzheimer's as a possible solution. My father stopped talking completely three years before he died. There were no drugs at that point for him to take. His sister, who died several years later, was put on Aricept -- which, apparently, Ms. Summitt is taking -- and was able to carry on an amiable, if somewhat limited, conversation right up until the day she died.

This is not a fight you win. That is the saddest thing about it. This is a fight you make because the fight is worth making. As a survivor of an Alzheimer's family, I am proud that Pat Summitt is staying on the job. Root like crazy for the Lady Vols, people. You'll never do a better thing in your sports fan's lives. Oh, and send the Alzheimer's Association some money, too.
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