The first 12 hours of being 47 are going swimmingly. There’s several feet of snow piling up outside. I have had three cups of coffee and two fried eggs.
I was gifted with a freeze-your-brain, ice-cube tray (to make cubes in the shape of brains); two mermaid hand towels; a brain-in-a-jar candle; a beautiful Pinot Noir travel wine set from Oregon; and, the complete fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen.
This year, I will read Andersen’s stories, including The Little Mermaid, to my son David–just as my father did for me forty years ago. Those were defining moments for me, and ultimately provided a narrative thread to the story of my history with Beau.
But where else will I go from here? In this, the first full year without my father?
Twenty-thirteen will definitely find me sharing my book, “Brain in a Jar,” with people everywhere. David, Allan and I plan to travel, as a family, to meet people like us living/fighting with Alzheimer’s disease. The book tour will be its own adventure and, I hope my son will come to think of as a defining time in his life.
But then what? Who will I be once this chapter comes to a close?
I’ll still be a writer. Maybe a less sad one. Maybe I’ll lose the 20 pounds that antidepressants have added to my frame. Maybe I will have the chance to see the Panama Canal or the Galapagos Islands. Maybe I will train my dog, Kip, to comfort Alzheimer’s patients. I’d really like to see more giraffes, too, which may be why I gave David a giant stuffed one for Christmas.
Agent Priya wants me to rewrite “Swimming with the Dead” as fiction. Pal Peg and I have a television pilot called, “Assisted Living,” in the works. There’s much to do. And worrying about Alzheimer’s disease vs. me is not on the list.
I plan to enjoy being human again. The very thing the Little Mermaid wanted most of all–even more than she wanted the Prince. He was just he means to an end.
Why have not we an immortal soul? asked the little mermaid mournfully; I would give gladly all the hundreds of years that I have to live, to be a human being only for one day, and to have the hope of knowing the happiness of that glorious world above the stars.
The Little Mermaid got the ending she wanted. Oh yes, that super annoying prince married another. But she became part of the ether with the promise of an immortal soul. That was her deepest desire.
I’d like the lessons of the Little Mermaid (which turned into lessons in how to be a better person) to help write my future:
- Don’t feel sorry for yourself when things are hard.
- Earn your rewards instead of believing that you deserve them.
- Don’t wait for someone to solve your problems. Do it yourself.
- Love more than you are loved.
Nancy Stearns Bercaw