Making Mistakes and Learning to Let Go

I totally blanked yesterday on my 3 PM weekly meeting for coffee with my closest friend.

The appointment was already on my calendar. And I'd already noticed the appointment 1½ hours before and made a mental note that I'd have to leave soon. Then I completely forgot about it until about 4:30.

I was embarrassed, so I called Fred, and launched into this long, convoluted apology. But he interrupted me and said without any rancor, "So, in the future, I'll just have to call you the day before."

"It was already on my calendar," I complained. "It's not going to do much good to be reminded." So he replied, "Well, I guess I'll have to call you an hour before."

He most likely recognized that this was my Alzheimer's acting up. And so, he wasn't really disturbed, that is, he didn't blame me.

But, of course, I blamed myself. And there are a couple of things I'm going to have to learn:

First, my inability to do what is normally expected of a person is going to happen to me over and over. Especially when I feel as normal as I do, I'm always going to wonder whether it's the Alzheimer's or just my carelessness. So I will tend to feel embarrassed.

I'm just going to have to let that go. Mostly, it's not going to be my "fault." I'll have to stop worrying, for instance, that others will blame a carelessness on my part .

Now that's going to be hard. The emotional imperative my entire life has been: YOU DO NOT MAKE MISTAKES. And making mistakes is going to be a huge part of this illness.

It will not be easy to let it go, to acknowledge each time what's happened without feeling upset. But that's going to be the challenge.

One other thing is that my friends will mostly make allowances for me; most of the time they're not going to be pissed off, for they know about the disease. They won't need a long apology to reassure them. So I can allow myself real gratitude for their care. It's hard to be grateful, of course, if you're embarrassed.

So I'll have to learn to be grateful.

This is another of the blessings of this illness. Perhaps it will be easier to let some things go, to have my friends help me let things go.

Editor's note: David's journey with Mild Cognitive Impairment was chronicled in "Fade to Blank: Life Inside Alzheimer's" an in-depth look at the real lives of families impacted by the Alzheimer's epidemic. His story continues on his personal blog on

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An author and former physician, Dr. David Hilfiker was diagnosed in 2012 with a progressive mild cognitive impairment. His doctor thought it was Alzheimer's but additional testing proved this initial diagnosis to be wrong. Now David must learn how to come to terms with the reality of worsening cognitive issues that appear to have no cause.

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