Alzheimer's disease has been very much in the news this week, especially in Cymru.
Firstly, there's the news that more people over 50 fear it than cancer and, on the other hand , a real breakthrough in the research ( pioneered by Cardiff Uni. and others) into identifying its causes.
Apparently, the body's own immune system attacks the brain cells of those who are genetically susceptible, what the professor described as like 'dismantling the brain at its roots'.
This could lead to many preventive therapies, but not initially a cure.
There are 45,000 dementia sufferers in Wales (many with Alzheimer's) and BBC Wales News did a feature on the forthcoming National Theatre Wales production 'Before I Leave' written by Red Poet Patrick Jones.
This is a play inspired by Patrick's work with Cwm Taf choir in Merthyr, all of whom have dementia.
'This play is a testament to the healing power of song', he says and it includes one song especially-written by Manics Nicky Wire and James Dean Bradfield.
It opens on May 27th at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff and promises to be an uplifting experience about a very harrowing subject.
Whenever I meet former teaching colleagues we share news about others and I'm always shocked to hear the number who have dementia and several who died because of it.
One ,in particular,stays in my mind because he was a good friend who I lost touch with and later saw on a TV documentary, sitting in a wheelchair and tended to by his wife, his carer.
The blankness of his hollow eyes haunts me; the disease had eaten away at his personality.
For me, it's a particular fear, worse even than UKIP being elected in Merthyr or the Bluebirds being relegated.
If the genetic factor is uppermost, then I am surely vulnerable.
Many of the older relatives on my father's side suffered, including my dear old Aunty who ended up roaming the streets of Barry at night and trying to evict her long-time tenants from the flat below her as she'd forgotten who they were.
But it's my grandmother ,above all, who I recall and whose deterioration I witnessed closely.
When I moved in to live with her in Barry she was already exhibiting the early signs : her short-term memory disappearing rapidly.
She began asking the same questions over and over, especially about the time and the day and, though she still managed to do the newspaper crossword regularly, I could see how depressed she became with her illness and powerlessness to do anything about it.
She took her eye-drops daily and her physical health was robust for a woman in her 70s, yet no doctor could remedy the 'holes in her head'.
When my father moved in to her house with his second wife (who was suicidal) it only added to her disorientation.
He lived separately in the lounge, while she inhabited the sitting-room. He had no time for her whatsoever and she sometimes confused me for him and ordered me to leave the house instantly.
She began to confuse dreams and reality and became convinced that her dead husband was in the house and refused to go upstairs.
Her phone-calls became jumbled and she'd frequently phone the doctor to order her groceries.
She was an excellent baker, but she made Victoria sponges and forgot about them : her large larder was full of tins containing these in various stages of rotting.
Most worrying, she began to be a danger to herself and others, to burn things and drink Sherry, forgetting she had taken a glass.
I came home once to find her flat on the floor and was certain she was dead, but she had fallen unconscious from all those 'forgotten' glasses.
It was hard to cope, with my father also suffering from mental illness and I wasn't always the most patient of people I admit.
She had been a teacher in a small village school in Rutland for many years and the best times were chatting with her about the past ( often looking at old photos), even though her deep regrets were evident.
She often told me how my grandfather would walk with her and try to persuade her to return and live in Barry again. Those 13 years of separation must have tortured him.
She'd been a great reader, though her eyes prevented her from continuing ; her sitting-room full of novels and poetry anthologies and she enjoyed when I read aloud to her ; Keats and Wordsworth her favourites.
For a trial she stayed a while in the Home at the top of the road, but it never worked out. She missed her house too much and cried and screamed the place down.
Going away to teach and get married, I left her there with my father, who by then had acquired a third wife.
By the time I returned to Wales she was confined to the geriatric ward of a psychiatric hospital, the most cruel and despondent of places.
She seemed to know who I was ( which was surprising), yet had no idea where she was . One time she was in a hotel, another in the waiting-room of a station longing for a train to take her away.
It was a place of the lost and forgotten: patients drugged just to make them pliable for over-worked staff who struggled in very difficult conditions. There was certainly no therapy then.
It was a tragic ending for a person who had been a pioneer : a woman who ( for whatever reasons) had actually prioritised her career over her role as wife.
And now, whenever a glaring hole appears in my memory, I can't help but think of her sad slide away from time and into a pit from which it's impossible to climb.
THE GREAT EXCAPE
My mam lives in an Ome
down by where The Great Excape ewsed t be.
One day she wen wan'drin
an searchin f Steve McQueen.
She wen inta the buildin
an arst f'r a G an T.
They woz kind an elpful,
the men from-a fewnral parlour.
I live not far away from er,
jest up the ill;
an sometimes my own memree
slike pot-oles in-a street.
My dad ewsed t ride a motorbike
jest like Steve McQueen.
Years ago they pulled down-a sign,
but never put up a coffin.