After I graduated from high school, I started hanging out with a group of people who were made up of a conglomeration of students from my high school. A few had graduated the year before, a few were in my year, and a few were in the year after mine. A mix of males and females. There was a core group and then the random friends of friends that came in and went out over the years.
That first summer, with all of us still tied to Sacramento, we would gather every Friday night for a friendly game of softball with whoever showed up. After the game, which ended when it got too dark to see anything any more, we typically went to Denny’s or Luis’s, which was a local Mexican restaurant. An institution of cheap Mexican food. Once we were done with our fine dining experience we would always go back to Jennifer’s house. Here parents would disappear into their bedroom as soon as we arrived. It was there that we watched The Big Chill. Over and over again. It was there that we watched Eddie Murphy’s Delirious. Over and over again. It was there that we played countless rounds of Trivial Pursuit and other board games. It was there where we played quarters and drank lots of alcohol. It was there that we met every New Year’s Eve. It was there that some things happened and what happens at Jennifer’s house stays at Jennifer’s house, if you know what I mean.
As all such groupings do, after a few years, we started to go in different directions. A few went away to college and didn’t come back. At times, differences arose, harsh words were exchanged, feelings were hurt. And at least in one instance, one of the circle passed away at a ridiculously young age. But, thirty years later, we all have our memories of the fun and friendship we shared back then and once or twice a year, those who can get together for a meal and more laughs.
Well, most of us anyway. As mentioned in the post linked to above, I hosted a gathering at my house about 18 months ago for some of the group and for the father of our friend who had passed away. It was there that some of us first witnessed and then learned of some difficulties one of us was having. For one individual, those memories are fading much faster than for the rest of us and it’s a heartbreaking thing. Jennifer, who was the party host and the life of the party, who just wanted to have fun, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s or dementia. There is no cure.
Way back when, there were these commercials for Hefty Garbage Bags in which the characters in the ads, for some strange reason that escapes me, would sing son “Hefty, Hefty, Hefty” in a deep voice, followed by “Wimpy, Wimpy, Wimpy” in a higher voice. Jennifer and I would mimic those commercials back then with her doing the Hefty voice and me doing the Wimpy voice. For some reason, this is one of those things that always came up when we have got together in the years since. When we gathered at my house 18 months ago, it came up again and Jennifer had absolutely no memory of what we were talking about.
A few months ago, she and her partner of 15 years were married in their backyard. You could see even more the changes going on with our friend. There was a lot of uncertainty and doubt on her face on a day when she should have felt nothing but joy and love from being around her friends and family and celebrating a life with her partner. While she is on medication that helps somewhat, what it really does is only slow down the inevitable.
Today, the local newspaper has a front page article about their battle. It’s the type of thing that makes me want to stop everything I am doing and run to them and help, but I don’t know what I could possibly do. It is one of those moments when the sadness of life stares me in the face. I wish I could do something.