I was not looking forward to playing Stephen Granade’s Will Not Let Me Go. The description of the game is short: Dallas, Texas. 1996. Fred Strickland has Alzheimer’s.
My greatest fear is becoming afflicted with Alzheimer’s, or some other form of dementia.
Most of my life I have been prone to forgetting words, particularly nouns, and it seems to be getting worse as I get older. I am 41. I once called shampoo ‘hair detergent.’ I often have panic attacks when I can’t find a word, afraid that the word is gone forever. I do not have clear memories of much of my life. What I do remember is usually in the third person, things I know as facts but not as personal happenings. Most of my daughter’s early life just isn’t there.
None of these things indicate that I am more susceptible to dementia but they weigh heavy on me all the same.
In Will Not Let Me Go you take on the role of Fred Strickland, a man stricken Alzheimer’s, at various points in his later years dealing with his condition. These vignettes are presented out of sequence, one of the many tactics Stephen Granade uses to evoke a sense of discomfort in the reader. Passages are often halted mid sentence, sitting unfinished, forcing you to make the effort to continue the story, the same kind of effort Fred must make to stay focused and present. Sometimes words on the screen change as you make these efforts, and sometimes not, it can be hard to tell. I don’t know how many time I missed such a change before finally noticing. Realizing this, that I may have missed many of these changes, I had to put the story away for awhile. I was overwhelmed.
Will Not Let Me Go is a deeply sad work. This is quite often achieved through dramatic irony, scenes played through with you knowing what Fred has forgotten, and you can not help him. But at other times Granade drops the irony completely, putting you right there with Fred in real time as he experiences gapes in time, missed moments. Both approaches are equally effective in breaking the readers heart.
Despite this sadness, Will Not Let Me Go is a story about love, and about wanting the best for those we care about.