Last night I was scrolling through my FB timeline when I saw an update on Pat Summitt, the former women's basketball coach for the University of Tennessee. Until a few years ago, I had no idea who she was...and unfortunately the reason why I know about her now is because of what she shared with my mother: a diagnosis of early-onset dementia related to Alzheimer's disease.
They were diagnosed the same year, in 2011. Pat Summitt passed away last night at the age of 64. What I saw earlier on FB was an update that she might be dying and I was hopeful that it was an exaggeration. Yet, as we have learned all too frequently, these imminent death watch updates tend to be fairly accurate, so I was not surprised by the news this morning.
However, I am surprised at how quickly her condition deteriorated. And my emotions are all over the place.
I feel for her family. Her son was born the year I entered college, which means he is only 26. The last five years of his life (the beginning of his adult life) were spent watching this horrible bitch of a disease strip away at his mother's memory and her dignity. At some point, she became so incapacitated as to need placement in a care facility. And then, literally, in the blink of an eye, his mother is gone.
And that is where I end up all in my feelings about what is now happening to my mother and what the future holds for my daughter...
While there is so much I want to express, to do so makes this all about me. And Alzheimer's gives no fucks about me, just like it gave no second thoughts to destroying Pat Summitt, totally upending her son's life, and erasing all of who she was until 2011.
Alzheimer's does not give a fuck about any of us.
I regret that I did not pay attention to women's basketball, let alone know anything about Pat Summitt, who was clearly a living legend. I know that as effusive the praises were for Muhammad Ali, who succumbed fairly recently to Parkinson's disease (another undiscriminating neurological bitch of a disease), there will be no such accolades for Pat Summitt. Other than tennis, women's sports still have a long way to go, even if you are badass enough to have won more games than everybody else. So I resolve to read her book, connect to her foundation, and do whatever else I can never to forget Pat.