“This meat is delicious,” Alice said as she scarfed down another big bite of fresh grilled steak. Alzheimer’s brought out her carnivorous streak. Peter and I accommodated. “I don’t dare ask where you got it.” Alice glanced over at the dog.
“It’s from the country store.” Our local store carries meat from local farmers.
“But where did they get it from?” She looked at the dog again avoiding eye contact with me and Peter. “Isn’t there rationing?”
“Oh no! No rationing. Don’t worry.” She always gives us clues about her whereabouts. “Are you in World War II?” She nodded.
Hallucinations? Visions? What to call them and what they lead to on the beatification-incarceration spectrum all depends upon frame of reference. Culture, the bread and butter of anthropologists, lays out the rules. Some arctic cultures require healer trainees to have visions, perhaps because they’ll ensure that the healer will understand the sense of displacement that goes with being sick. Sticking with science, biomedicine defines visions as symptoms to be eradicated. The Mayo Clinic website tells patients that Lewy Bodies “abnormal round structures … in … regions of your brain involved in thinking and movement…” can cause the visual hallucinations that some Alzheimer’s patients experience.
My scientific mother, Alice, can grasp the histology of these abnormal round structures. Despite the fact that biomedicine has no way to eliminate these Lewy Bodies or the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s, she still believes in the power of science to make things better. Peter and I had other bodies on our minds. We needed more than biomedicine could offer to make peace with the Japanese soldiers that sometimes emerged from the memory of a 1945 newsreel to surround our house at sunset.
Instead of insisting that the soldiers weren’t there, we used another branch of science to interpret Alice’s visions: Space time travel, her special power, accommodated simultaneous realities. It’s relative—I’m sure Einstein would have approved.
I passed her a second, smaller, piece of steak. “I’m here in 2010 where there’s no rationing. You can just go buy meat at the store.”
“So you just got it from the store?” She savored the next bite. Instead of looking at the dog, she blotted her lips with a napkin and studied Peter. “So where’s he?”