If Alvin had to live his life all over again, he would spend his time “just outdoors.” His love of nature stems from fond memories of childhood. Growing up in the Cayman Islands, he recalls “climbing trees, trying to see who could get the furthest out on a limb, or who could go the farthest out on the tree branch without breaking it or without falling down.”
Alvin’s caregiver, Sandra, encourages him to write down these positive memories to preserve them. However, as soon as Alvin starts writing, he finds his memory “just shut[s] off,” like a tap of water that’s now turned off. “That tells me how limited I am now,” he says.
Still, Alvin calls his memory “precious” because “it contains all the things” he needs. When he can’t write, he relies on Sandra to become “a diary to my memories,” he says, because “she can remember things I tell her and things that have happened.”
In addition to his writing, Alvin finds his speech now more “restrained” compared to before. This eats away at his confidence and bothers him a lot. He explains, “I have in my mind very fluently…what it is I want to say. Once I open my mouth, I just lose track. I can’t latch onto what it is that I’m trying to say or present. I just can’t get the words.”
These problems have made it difficult for him to do things he was once good at, like give speeches. Alvin was once recruited to speak for the AARP due to his contagious energy and stage presence. While his first speech received widespread praise, he had to decline offers to speak again for fear of forgetting words on stage. As he put it, “I don’t want to go up and for a moment, read and there’s silence because I can’t remember.”
Even though Alvin has fears about his memory, he is not one to give up. “Right now, I have to do everything to try to strengthen my memory,” he says. For example, he uses four calendars placed strategically in spaces he frequents to remind him of upcoming events.
While Alvin is still coming to terms with how his memory is getting worse as he’s getting older, he’s trying to become more accepting of change. He says, “Aging can be painful, but it can be more painful if you dwell on it. I have to get off of that [mindset]. I’ve made progress.”