Monday, January 26, 2015

ALZHEIMER'S--FOGGY WITH SUN BREAKS




Joe on the Columbia River in 1991


January 26, 2015

The other day, I stumble into the kitchen (as I typically do first thing in the morning) to find Joe at the counter, his head in his hands.  (He had awakened several hours earlier, and has just been sitting there.) He looks at me and I can tell something is wrong.  I know it probably involves Al.


“Are you okay?” I ask.


“No! I’m not”.


He makes a muddled attempt to explain what’s going on in his head, and after several minutes, I finally understand he’s describing fog, the same kind of dense fog we had experienced back in Portland, Oregon. 


In the early 90’s, we were living in Portland in one of the remodeling jobs we had just finished.  It was a house high on a cliff overlooking the city; a real jewel.  On a really clear day (something as rare in Portland as a unicorn) we could see Mt. St. Helens perfectly framed in the front window. On those days, everything sparkled like it had been Photoshopped. 


But, on a more typical foggy, rainy, drizzly day the view was completely different.  It was grey, almost entirely grey, and hard to distinguish any outside scenery at all.  It felt like we were hanging from the clouds and overlooking a featureless urban sea.  We knew we were up on a cliff above the city, but with the fog we couldn’t tell much of anything else.


 On this morning in Arizona, in Joe’s fog, he has the unsettling feeling that the world might have fallen out from under him; that he might just float away (set aloft) like Carl and Russell in the animated film “Up”.


I sit in the kitchen with Joe and we talk, and wait for the dreadful feeling to go away.  I think, “What if it doesn’t go away?  What if Joe and Al do just float away into the fog?”    (Whoa, that’s not a good thing to dwell on.)


We get on with our morning routine.  We don’t make a big deal about it. We just turn on the fog lights, and slow down a little, and wait for our clearing. And, after a good cup of coffee, (we love coffee in the morning) Joe’s fog slowly begins to lift. 

 
The weatherman in Portland used to use the phrase “Foggy with Sun Breaks”, that’s what happens.  The sun breaks through and Joe lands right back on the bar stool in the kitchen.  The day is good, not Photoshop good, but good.


The thing is:  Some days are just going to be better than others.  There’s no pattern to it that I can see, no forecaster, no Doppler radar to help us.  We just have to maneuver through it.  We probably won’t see a “SHARP TURN AHEAD” or “AL CROSSING” sign until we are on top of it.  (Well, you don’t need to have Alzheimer’s to “not see it coming” so to speak.)

We’re learning to live with uncertainty.  That’s an interesting thing because life is never certain.  We just didn’t think much about it before Al rang the doorbell.


I suppose not fearing uncertainty is a good thing.  Being too cautious might have stopped us from taking risks that ultimately resulted in some of the best experiences we’ve had together.  (I’m not talking about bungee jumping.  I mean making a decision when you don’t know whether the outcome will be wonderful or go seriously, “AL” style haywire.)


I spent some time today pondering our Grandson’s upcoming wedding.   I’ve offered to help plan and make part of the d├ęcor.  It may seem crazy taking on more responsibility, but I need that.  We need that. We need to think about things other than how Al is fogging up the view.  We need to celebrate life and the futures of those we love. 


Oh, Al is going with us to the wedding, there’s no leaving him home.  It will be Joe and Jane and our “plus one”.  We plan to dance and laugh and enjoy our family.  And, we will have cake. 


Joe always did a great rendition of “YMCA”.  I wonder if he remembers the Macarena.  Ay yai yai.