Irish Alzheimer’s Disease

by Bill Brenner on May 19, 2015

Alzheimer’s Disease is a terrible thing. I’ve known some precious souls trapped within that mental prison over the years, and it’s one of the saddest things to behold. But there’s another mental prison we all find ourselves in from time to time. The late Fr. Dennis Nason, former pastor of my church, described it as Irish Alzheimer’s.

Simply put, you forget everything but the grudges.

I’d like to tell you I don’t suffer from it, but I’d be lying. The difference between me today and me of yesterday is that I used to adore my grudges. I was faithful to them and reveled in them. Now when I catch myself in the middle of a grudge feeding frenzy, I’m ashamed.

Grudges used to be cool to me. Zeroing in on someone else’s faults made me feel so much better about myself. In all the darker episodes of my life I’ve looked for others to blame.

It doesn’t work so well for me anymore.

The ability to hold grudges is related to an inability to stop judging other people. We have an irresistible urge to compare ourselves to other people. If we feel like shit because of what our lives have become, we want assurances that what we have is at least better than what the next guy has. If we come from a family of drama queens, we want assurance that some other family is ten times as bad. In that toxic mix, we hold on to hard feelings.

When the bad feelings harden into stone, you have a grudge.

I used to hold grudges against various family members for what I considered to be their wrongs against me, forgetting that I had been as bad to them at times. I forget about all the shitty things I’ve done when I focus in on my problem with other people. A good grudge helps you forget the pain of your own failures. It’s an escape from personal responsibility.

Create enough of those stones and the weight becomes too much to carry. That’s where I’ve found myself in recent years. So I’ve set about throwing the stones away. The problem is that, sometimes, it feels so good to clutch ’em and throw ’em at others’ glass houses.

I once wrote about being a control freak. That condition is ideal for nurturing grudges. Whenever I tried but failed to control things, there was always someone to blame: Family members. Work colleagues. Whoever was close by. Whenever I tried to make sense of a friend’s or family member’s untimely death, I zeroed in on people I could blame.

But the buzz of a good grudge never lasts for long, and when it dissipates I feel like I’m in more pain than I was in before.

I’m no different than a lot of other people in this regard. But I look for a cure every day. I’m going to keep looking until I find it. When I do, I’ll share the cure with you.

Cartoon: Jury of 12 cats with a 'guilty' sign

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