As a person grows older, perhaps because our heads become filled with so many years of information, the thought of dementia sometimes threatens, sort of like a cloud in the sky that drifts away harmlessly.
For half my life, this has happened often to me: I walk into a room, ask myself, "Now why did I come in here..." and finally turned and walked away because my mission totally escaped me. Later, of course, sometimes even as I'm walking out, I will remember what I was after. This used to trouble me, but then I'd talk to my husband and others and find out it happens to everybody, even to much younger folks. We would compare notes and laugh it off. We're fine, it's just normal. And it is.
Lately, though, I've found myself opening my mouth to say something and the wrong word will pop out. Not often, but frequently enough to trouble me. For instance, the other day I was telling my husband what I do when a horse crowds too close to me: "I just make a hissing noise and raise my ears."
I meant arms. I raise my arms to make myself seem taller. Cliff jokingly said, "You raise your ears?" and I answered, "Sure. I can raise my ears if I want to," making light of the whole thing.
I wouldn't worry if this were the only time it happened, but it's occurred several times lately. Perhaps I don't even know how often it happens. Maybe people are sparing me, for all I know, by not saying anything.
I could go get tested for Alzheimer's, right? But I really don't want to know, that's the truth of it.
Yesterday I had occasion to run into a couple I know; the wife has dementia, and when she chats with me, it's what you would expect: She'll talk about her mother and her childhood, relating the same stories over and over. I respond as though I hadn't just heard the identical tale ten minutes ago, as well as last week and last month.
Cliff has an aunt with Alzheimer's, and we watched her gradually forget her friends and family one at a time until, the last I heard, she only recognizes one of her two sons. That's how it goes.
This lady yesterday, though, made me realize how it must feel to be the spouse of such a person. Her husband takes her to events with him and includes her in his activities, once in awhile bringing her sister along to help watch her.
Yesterday his wife got out of their vehicle and came over to chat with me. She looked a little peeved, and glancing over at her husband, said, "I've about had all I can take of him. He moved in on me, I didn't invite him. It isn't like we're married. One of these days I'm going to lose it. I know how to deal with him, I was raised with five brothers!"
When we got home, I said, "Cliff, if I get dementia, I may not even remember that you are my husband!"
"That's OK," he answered. "I'll take care of you."
That's the worrisome thing with dementia, though. Nobody wants a loved one to be saddled with such a burden, to have to give up normal life and take care of a person who doesn't even recall who they are.
I'm not the least bit afraid of dying. I've had everything I want from life and then some. But dementia scares me to death, not for myself, but for my family. I have told them, "When the time comes that I don't know who I am or where I am, put me in a home, because it won't matter."
But what do they do until that time comes?
I know this entry is a downer, but I'm sure everyone of a mature age has had these thoughts, we just don't like to admit it or talk about it because it's such an unpleasant topic. Just bear with me this once, and Miss Polly Sunshine will be back in the next entry.