WHEN IT GETS DARK by Thomas DeBaggio

WHEN IT GETS DARK

An Enlightened Reflection on Life with Alzheimer’s

KIRKUS REVIEW

A sequel to Losing My Mind (2002) continues the author’s poignant account of living with a disease that destroys memory and, with it, life’s meaning.

DeBaggio, a former journalist and herb-grower, weaves together his recollections of his past life, his observations about the present, and his fears for the future. The larger part of the present work recounts his efforts to start a small garden business. In his backyard stands an empty greenhouse that is now both his repository of memories and his personal memorial. With his long-term memory battered but still intact, he recounts how it came to be there and why it’s now empty. DeBaggio’s picture of the changing face of Arlington, Virginia, where he has lived for decades, and especially of his neighborhood and his street, is fresh and clear. Along the way there are short, almost haiku-like fragments revealing his internal world (“A shadow as thin as a slice of tomorrow follows me around. It is the memory of yesterday”) and his observations of the external (“A woman with smoky skin huddles against the cold wind as the sun comes up on a Tuesday morning”). Sad excerpts from his letters and bleak quotes from Henry Miller, Samuel Beckett, Kenneth Patchen, et al., dot the text, all without comment and needing none. By the end, his competencies are failing, his fear level has ratcheted up—but so has his acceptance level, and thoughts of death are frequent. DeBaggio makes agonizingly clear that experiencing the loss of one’s mind is painful and frightening.

A sharp awakening to all those who imagine that Alzheimer’s sufferers remain blissfully unaware of what’s happening to them.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 2003
ISBN: 0-7432-5003-6
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2003