I must apologize for the gross portmanteau of the title – the word “smog” has no analogue in the Vulgar tongue, and so I find that, like Dr. Des Voeux, I must combine the two concepts in language. Nebula and vapor are the chosen sufferers of Latin’s proud history, and while the result does, in some ways, resemble the word for “grandson,” I feel that I may be pardonably pleased with pride in the result. Nepor, neporis, f.
The reason, of course, that is on my mind, is that I have just lately had a close encounter with a Smog…not a smog of the vapors and clouds, not of coalsmoke and river mists, the scourge of London’s breath even in your, less hydraulic time line. No, the Smog of today’s adventure is a Smog of the Mind. I had reason to sit, today, with a woman who would have been described, in my milieu, as “senile.” Her age had caught up to the workings of her reason. And as I sat, and listened to her tell me the same tiny fragment of a story, the same factoid, for what must have been the sixth time, I came to imagine what all-pervasive Smog had overtaken her faculties.
For this is what dementia – and Dr. Alzheimer’s Disease – do to your elderly. You have dragged them through wonders of medicine past the dangers of influenza, the pox, plagues, and other ailments. More and more of your grandparents and great-aunts are surviving longer and longer, and so, for more and more, as they age, the industry of their minds and the ravages of nature combine their by-products to produce a miasma, a swirling grey mist which envelops and cocoons, which protects and shields. The Smog of absence from one’s mind covers like a woolen blanket, and seals away the Person from the World, ever tightening, until, at last, the afflicted one forgets how to swallow, and breathes in the last cold nepores of the Lethe.
I will confess – I fear this fate. My mind, mechanical though it may be, in parts, is one of the greater gifts the Lord bestowed upon me. To lose it…to feel the corrosive Smog eating away at gears and workings, at foundations and pillars, to have the structures and springs rust and fall apart, is one of the worst deaths I can conceive.
And yet. My companion in this mission of mercy, a Dutchwoman of sturdy character and firm convictions, claims it as a great gift. “How wonderful,” she says, “to have forgotten.” To worry no more, to have one’s anxieties slip away into the endless clouds…I see her point. Thank you, Anke. Rightly said.
What will you do, when Smog rolls o’er your eyes?
When Morpheus’ Vapors slip into your Chest?
When Fire which runs your motive Forces dies?
When choked, forgetting, will you finally rest?