Saturday, October 20, 2018

Sky: A Bit of Personal Neuroscience

It turns out that a new and highly important part of the brain has only been discovered in the last ten years. It’s not even it’s own separate part…it is several structures working together as a hub to help make sense out of the tsunami of information and data. Its name is the Default Mode Network, DMN. Interestingly, this network wakes up and gets to work only when the rest of the body shuts down. So, when the rest of our brains and bodies and minds and consciousness enter downtime, the DMN literally switches on.

The job of the DMN is to keep the lid on, wax the floors when the office is closed, and generally re-establish order. So-called “lower” animals and young children have only undeveloped DMN, if any at all, instead creating a rich world of “magical thinking” to live in, with layers of wonder. Of course, many adults overshoot, as they put together their networks, building DMNs that are over-developed, leading to patterns of self-absorption and rigid thinking.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sky: Demented Logic

A couple of weeks or so ago, I decided to plant some fall spinach in the garden. I had some space and the weather was still good. So, after checking with Jane, I bought some seeds and prepared a place for them. Because I remembered being forgetful lately [ ! ], I carefully followed the planting directions on the packet, including marking the area with good-sized stakes. Then, I waited. And waited some more…and more. These brand-new seeds were just not coming up despite frequent watering (I think)  and good wishes. Not a single one! But, I remember…. I was so careful making my rows, laying the seeds in there…just like the package said to do.

Now, THINK, Sky. Rev those neurons up. What exactly do I remember doing?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sky: Voluntary Driving Ban

Has it finally arrived: the end of my 53-year driving career? And, is Career the right word? Yes, I think so.

I’m having no trouble at all remembering the excitement of my fifteenth year…the year I came eligible to take the test for my learner’s permit. For some reason, teenagers in Massachusetts had to wait, not until 17, not until 16, but fifteen-and-a-half was good enough.

The waiting was interminable in any case. And, besides, it felt like there was some kind of magic going on. One day I was too young to drive, and the next day all was OK. I just had to take a multiple choice written test and a vision test and then I could climb behind the wheel of the family’s Chevy Impala, a tank of a vehicle if their ever was one. Is this really fair to the other drivers on the road? I mean the ones who know what they were doing out there there? I had collected a lot of semi-useless book knowledge about cars and motors. I was all over my two magazine subscriptions (Popular Mechanics and Mad). Back then, I was able to identify every American car by its radiator and could tell you more than you needed or wanted to know about the evolution of tail fin design and placement. And hood ornaments…..fascination.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Jane: Changes, Changes, and More Changes

You try building a house with someone who has dementia, and see how it goes. Sky and I have built six houses together, many outbuildings, renovated two, and offered our services in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast helping people rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. All this work was challenging (especially my first time building!) and, in the end, very satisfying. To create something new, something beautiful, something useable, and something that will last is great.

And, we’re at it again. Only this time, Sky can no longer take the lead, be the “contractor” holding all the pieces together, know what has to happen next. It’s my turn.

And he can’t do most of the carpentry tasks that he has done time and again, even long before I met him. He’s frustrated (at times) and so am I.

The other day I realized that when I get angry about his inability to follow directions or anticipate the next task, I’m not just mad at him (for something he really has no control over), but I’m mostly sad. Sad that he can’t do these things anymore, sad that we’ve lost our beloved partnership in construction, sad that I’m the one that’s solely responsible for this project. I don’t want things to be like this.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Sky: Let's Talk about Death

Part of living with a terminal condition is, well, living with a terminal condition. Those of us on the dementia continuum have an excuse to look ahead and imagine our final days and hours. We’re on a special detour that leads only to death, right?

And, as an excuse, it’s not even a very good excuse. For many of us, myself included, our deaths feel closer now than before we made the acquaintance of Dr. Alzheimer. But it’s a phony excuse because, last I heard, demented people aren’t the only humans who will die at the end of our lives.