Sunday, April 9, 2017

Maggie's crazy old ladies.

Alert hearth/myth readers will recall that last week, I mentioned that all the older women in the Transcendence trilogy have memory problems. And I promised that this week, I would talk about why that is.

So here we are -- and here I sit, wishing I'd left myself a few notes about the topic. Ironic, right?

Pixabay | CC0
I could try to jog my memory by talking about what a growing problem dementia is. In 2015, the World Health Organization said more than 47 million people worldwide live with dementia -- and Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO's Director-General, said that number is expected to triple by 2051. "There's a tidal wave of dementia coming our way" as the world's population continues to age, she said. The WHO is advocating for a worldwide plan for dealing with dementia, treatment for which is projected to cost upwards of $1.2 trillion by 2030.

I could also mention that Alzheimer's Disease, which gets most of the press, isn't the only type of dementia. There's also vascular dementia, which can occur following a stroke; Lewy body dementia, which happens when abnormal proteins appear in nerve cells for reasons as yet unknown; and frontotemporal dementia, which happens when certain regions of the brain shrink, causing behavior and emotional changes as opposed to memory problems. In fact, any disease or condition that damages brain or nerve cells can cause dementia.

And some other things cause memory issues, too. Stress is a big one; drug interactions, particularly in older people, are another. The good news is that those conditions can be reversed. Others can't yet, though. So the trick is figuring out what's causing the memory loss -- and in the case of Alzheimer's, where the cause is a buildup of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain, you can't know for sure without an autopsy.

But I'm pretty sure I wasn't thinking of all that last week. So let's talk about Maggie's crazy old ladies for a minute. (Hey, I made them up. I can call them crazy if I want.)

I mentioned Granny last week. She is a kindly but mysterious figure in a pastel track suit. She travels around the country with Zed, her assistant, in an ancient VW bus. She keeps calling Maggie by the wrong name, which she says doesn't matter because "it's not your real name anyway." She claims to be channeling a Shawnee Indian creator spirit, and she believes she's supposed to rescue or renew or reach 1,054 people before the next major lunar standstill in April 2025. (I talked briefly about lunar standstills last week.) Granny seems to have made peace with her occasional lapses of memory, maybe because Kokumthena is filling in the gaps for her in Her own way.

Ruth Brandt, Maggie's former mother-in-law, is a pill. She believes she knows best how to live everyone else's lives, especially those of family -- and she still considers Maggie family, even though Maggie's been divorced from her son for ten years. Ruth is stressed out because of her cancer treatments, but that's only part of her problem. She's been keeping a big secret for decades, and the stress of that is also wearing on her. In Maggie in the Dark, it falls to Maggie to bring that secret out into the open.

The third old lady in Maggie's life is her mother, Shirley Muir. Maggie talks about her at the beginning of Maggie in the Dark; then we meet her at the end of the book, when Maggie returns home after a couple of months at Ruth's. Shirley's memory issues are a crucial element of the plot of the second book, Maggie on the Cusp, which I'm writing now, so I won't say much more.

Maggie herself is no spring chicken, and the stress she undergoes while she achieves her transcendence is bound to have an effect on her. I don't think it will make her crazy. But then, I'm only partway into Maggie on the Cusp. Our heroine still has a long way to go.

By the way, if you haven't yet picked up a copy of Maggie in the Dark, here's where to go to get one. And thank you!

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Camp NaNo progress: I had a great writing day yesterday -- Maggie on the Cusp now stands at about 15,000 words. I hope to add to that tonight, as I'll be out of pocket for a good chunk of the next two weekends, and I won't be able to employ my usual strategy of slacking off during the week and catching up in a marathon weekend session. The advantage to Camp NaNo is that in case I fall really far behind, I can adjust my goal so that I still "win". But that would mean finishing the first draft in May, and I'd really like to have it out of the way by the end of this month. Time will tell...

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These moments of memory-addled blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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