RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Time now for StoryCorps. Each week we hear from an everyday American with a story to tell. Today, one from Charles Jackson about his family. His mother's side of the family has the genetic predisposition to early-onset Alzheimer's. Charles Jackson's mother started showing symptoms in her early 40s.
Here, he remembers the day he found out what was happening to her.
Mr. CHARLES JACKSON: My brother Stanley and I came home from school, and Mom told us that our aunt wanted to talk to us. So we went out and got in the old pickup and drove over there. And my aunt started telling us that my mom had this disease that my Aunt Pearl had had, and my Uncle Fred, and so forth down the line.
It's the first day I head the word Alzheimer's. When we got back to the farm, it was dark, and Mom and Dad were in a fight. Dad had gotten home from work and wanted to know where we were at and she had forgotten where we had gone. They were yelling and screaming at each other, and it was a horrible night for all of us.
I was the one that become the care person for my mother at that time. I was 13. I got to high school. I was in my senior year, and by this time, mom was sitting in the rocking chair with a blanket wrapped around her and all the blinds pulled down. That year she asked me if I could help her die, and I told her I couldn't. And after that she started trying to run away. Any chance she thought she could sneak out of the house, she would leave and I'd have to go find her.
I was diagnosed in 2004 with Alzheimer's. I was 50. A friend of mine sent me an e-mail right after my diagnosis. She said, this is terrible, this isn't fair, and it's a horrible thing. And I wrote back to her and I said, well, it's not that bad. It's not like you're in pain all the time. But it takes a toll on our family because I know that when they see my failing, they get really sad, and they don't like to see that.
I wish they would try to understand that I may be a little different. There's a time there where I will forget everybody's name, but inside I'm still here. I'm still me. Inside, I'm thinking how much fun I'm having with them. And I, as much as possible, would like to be treated as had been treated before.
MONTAGNE: Charles Jackson, here in Los Angeles. His interview was recorded as part of the StoryCorps Memory Loss Initiative. It will be archived along with all the others at the Library of Congress. More of these stories are in the new StoryCorps book, "Listening Is an Act of Love" and at npr.org.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.