I’m in transit again. And I spent one hour on a plane sitting next to a woman with Alzheimer’s recently. How did I know?
She kept repeating over and over again to anyone listening “This is the first time I’ve flown alone.” She’d been a widow for “…seven or eight years.” At first I thought she was a nervous flyer.
She was fooling around with the seat belt, trying to connect the wrong parts. So I fastened it for her. Then I thought oh, she must have cataracts. This is how it starts I guess, we make excuses for our loved ones as they age, we make accommodations.
Then she told me her children worry about her. What else is new? I know that day is coming, when the tables will turn and the Bride and the Rocker will wonder if I’m OK, did I lose my car again in a parking lot? Am I trying to dial the microwave like it’s a phone?
But then she wanted to know if I was going to Atlanta too. That whole plane was going to Atlanta, so the light bulb went off in my head. Aha, so this is what it’s like.
A friend of mine in MA tried to explain it to me when her mother developed Alzheimer’s. She forgot how to get into her bed. That night I made a mental note, this is how you do it, and I willed my mind to remember. Because it was part of my muscle memory, my head just didn’t compute those movements.
My seat mate on Delta told me her son had arranged to have someone meet her at the gate in Atlanta so she could make her connection to visit her daughter in Jackson, MS. As she was talking, her hands were trying to catch the dust bunnies in the air.
And she’s been losing weight, the doctors did all the tests and they couldn’t figure it out. I thought to myself, I know why. She forgets to eat!
It occurred to me then, Ada would never forget to eat. We sometimes can’t find our keys, and maybe my reading glasses might end up in the kitchen. But I’m making a pact with Ada, we’ll remind each other to eat.
I didn’t read “Still Alice.” But I’d like to see the movie. Julianne Moore inhabits this dreadful disease, this incremental loss of ourselves. I know the Flapper didn’t develop dementia, and it’s not in my family.
Still, how does one know when it’s no longer you?