This is the first in a series of stories about retired RCMP officer Patrick Guy Roy who is slowly slipping into Alzheimer’s.
I still remember walking past the house where a gang of boys stood waiting to taunt me. There was no way around them if I wanted to get to my cousin’s house. I would stiffen inside, my heart would pound, and I’d keep my head and eyes firmly fixed on the ground. My pace would quicken almost to a run as I listened to their jeers. I was seven years old. Every time I approached their house, the churning would start in my gut, and I would feel ashamed of my fear. I wanted to cry and run home, but I didn’t. I’d hold my breath, grit my teeth, lower my gaze and hurry past. The taunting went on for what felt like years. It was always the same until, finally, one day, I couldn’t take it anymore, and my fear transformed into anger or, dare I say, rage. I was tired, tired of being scared. I was only afraid of one other person at that age, but I wouldn’t confront that fear until years later.
I now understand that this bullying was my first awareness as a young boy that what I was enduring was an injustice and that it wasn’t right. And that only I had the power to make it stop, or I’d at least die trying. One thing I knew was it couldn’t keep going on. So, I started plotting my revenge with no real idea of what the outcome would be.
Later that day, I saw one of the boys in the hallway at school, and just as he walked past me in the hallway, I stabbed him in the arm with my pencil. Thankfully, I did no actual harm. It was perhaps not the most well thought out nor the best way to deal with a bully, but it served its purpose, and my seven-year-old self was rather pleased as I released myself from their grip of terror. Did I get in trouble? Yes, I did. Was it worth it? You bet it was!
Around the same age, maybe a bit younger. I brought a dog home, a pup. It was maybe six months old. I loved that dog. He had big floppy ears, and he was just happy, happy all the time. Then one day, soon after I’d brought him home, my dad must have been angry about something or angry about something the puppy had done, and he hauled off and kicked the dog. I was shocked and shattered. I couldn’t believe it. It broke my goddamn heart. My mom quickly told me to take the dog back to the neighbour’s, or my dad would kill it. I bawled my eyes out like a baby as I led the dog back to the neighbour’s. It was then I knew I wanted to grow up and protect puppies and people, anyone and everyone from the bullies. It was also the first moment where I was taught that we got ‘rid of problems’ instead of facing them, but I was far too young to understand the implications of that philosophy.
In January of 2020, at sixty years old, I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. On hearing this news, I felt the churning in my gut, and I felt fear, but I also felt an urgency to tell my story before I could not recall the events that have shaped my life with any certainty or clarity. I know a memoir is not simply about telling factual circumstances in some sort of linear fashion. It is much more than that. Yet, to get to the ‘much more than that,’ I tell stories, cop stories. It’s what I know how to do.
I hope that by telling my stories, I might help others who have PTSD or Alzheimer’s. I also hope we all learn to understand that we can’t catch all the bullies or always overcome the chaos of this existence, even if we choose a life of law and order and that no matter how hard we try, things won’t always work out the way we want them to. Yet, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When we lean into the chaos and our feelings of fear and vulnerability, when we surrender, we understand that this is sometimes where we find our courage. It is where we learn to be brave. We also come to a place where we learn to trust and accept that we are all pieces in a much bigger puzzle, and it is not our job always to understand why things work out the way they do. Instead, we realize we are here to do our best to love and help each other, and we make peace with the limits of our lives, and then we can loosen the grip of fear and anger.
I started this project in January 2021. I forget about Alzheimer’s when I’m writing, and it has given me a chance to rediscover my life. I’ve become a witness to my legacy, and I understand myself a little more, which is ironic as I am slowly slipping away from myself. But for now, I continue to connect to what I have always held as most important, my family, the people I helped to protect, the communities I served and the friendships I made.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of this important story by Bev. It is part of her upcoming book.
Author: Bev Hotchkiss is an accomplished and comprehensive freelance writer with over ten years of experience. As ghostwriter/editor for Patrick’s memoir, she helped Patrick express and reconcile some of his most traumatic and difficult emotions. Together they navigated the sensitive world of PTSD and Alzheimer’s to create an engaging and poignant story with the hopes of helping others understand themselves or their loved ones.
Discover More: Check out this insightful article on recent dementia research.