[written Fall 2016: Two Months after Diagnosis]
Like a lot of people, I blunder through life, dividing my time among three familiar worlds: The Now, The Past, and The Future.
These days, I bounce, sometimes awkwardly, among the Big Three. I wonder if my recent diagnosis isn’t cranking up the intensity. Like, today I found myself standing around somewhat blankly in the kitchen, a little light-headed and spacey. Oh, did I forget to eat lunch again? All of a sudden I realized I was ravenous and, thrilled, I quickly put together (and savored) the meal I missed.
Delicious! As usual, returning to the Present presents unexpected presents! This time a meal to be savored.
As I finished my simple meal, my mind wandered back in time to the eating habits of my long-dead, and neurologically impaired, father, Charles. His culinary preferences included Ring Dings, Karo syrup straight out of the bottle, and black “coffee” made with warm water from the sink and Sanka.
In addition to his unusual dietary habits, my father lived with a severe case of MS and was in a wheelchair for a third of his life. Family and many friends were always cooking or bringing him special, healthy and delicious foods, which he would dutifully eat, but he’d just as soon have one of his old favorites, like a grilled marshmallow sandwich on Wonder Bread.
Charles was a hero in our family and in his broader community for his eventual acceptance and embrace of his deteriorating condition. He was able to find the love beneath the pain and sorrows. Myself, I didn't do so well with the process…at all. I was mostly uncomfortable with his decades-long decline into quadriplegia. It was hard to share, (or to resist!) his twinkle, especially in the intimate moments, like when I was feeding him. If I was around at all, I remained in a more or less constant, sullen funk at all of the losses and things we would never do together.
Now, many years later, I’m more able to appreciate the gift life is offering me to try again, this time with my own decline! Will I be able to find a place of acceptance and peace as my father finally did?
And off I drift into the Future…Preparing myself for a nightmare of forgetting.
Today I learned something interesting: there’s more out there besides the Big Three for my mind to wander in. Yes, like where was that mind before I realized I was hungry? And what was my route from pondering the Past to imagining a wreck of a Future.
It almost seems like Alzheimer’s provides a kind of neutral ground to hang out in without necessarily being Present. I’ve visited this place a few times already and expect to be back. Not good, not bad.
Detached ….a safe place to observe.