What intrigued me most was when he was asked what frightened him now. Mr. King said:
So here's the movie that scared me the most in the last 12 or 13 years: The movie opens with a woman in late middle age, sitting at a table and writing a story, and the story goes something like, 'Then the branches creaked in the ...' and she stops and she says to her husband, 'What are those things? I can't think of them. They're in the backyard and they're very tall and birds land on the branches.' And he says, 'Why, Iris, those are trees,' and she says, 'Yes, how silly of me,' and she writes the word and the movie starts. And that's Iris Murdoch and she's suffering the onset of Alzheimer's disease. That's the boogeyman in the closet now. ... I'm afraid of losing my mind." (Fresh Air/May292013/NPR)
That movie Mr. King is referring to is Iris that debuted in 2001. The film chronicled Ms. Murdoch life with her husband from their early days through Ms. Murdoch's battle with Alzheimer's disease. When you make your living with words, the idea that gradually the words you use to make that living are going to be drained away from you like a swirling eddy can be terrifying, or should be. It's like telling a uh, you know, a tree chopper downer guy person and he's got that axe, Monty Python and yeah, lumberjack, that's what it is. Lumberjack. It's like telling a lumberjack to cut down a tree and by the way, here's your spoon. This just actually happened. I could not remember what a guy who cuts down a tree is called (or lady who cuts down a tree). Then it came. It's like Stephen King not remembering what the Gunslinger's first name was (Roland). I am using this time of my life to tell stories of the town where I was born, and other fun things. I need words, and they are slipping away. The lesions on my brain are slowly drilling down like government contractors searching for shale oil, not giving a frack what is in the way. That may have been a political statement that snuck out, or a Battlestar Galactica reference. I'm glad I remember Battlestar Galactica (both versions).
The good thing about words is that they are plentiful, and are all over the place. A person can remind you of a word, or its in a reference book, or you come across (and down) them on crossword puzzles. This is a ritual that my wife and I have had for the last few years, since I got the MS diagnosis. She starts the crossword puzzle, will ask me about spelling, and when she has done as much as she can, gives it to me and I must finish it, even if I have to look things up. We finish them. We even do a decent job on the Sunday crossword. This is a prescription every one with an brain disease has to do. Get your brain rewiring itself. It actually is built to communicate with your body and other beings. It does not matter if you are sitting depressed on a couch watching duck Dynasty, part or most of that grayish white stuff in your head is workingRead, write, listen to music. It's your brain and you live in it. All I can do is work it the best I can. Stephen King and I live in words.
But sometimes a symbol can make things a bit difficult. Like this sign: