Monday, January 19, 2015


Joe and I at Grandson Bryan's Willamette University Football Game in 2013

Back to 2012, and a Trip to the Hearing Specialist:

“Hearing Aids?”

 “So you think Joe has hearing loss, and we should buy hearing aids. Okay, how much are they, I mean for the really good ones?  Holy Cow! That much?” 

So we bought hearing aids, tiny little devices with batteries that were no bigger than that suspicious-looking age spot on the back of my hand.  Well, it turns out that with “Al” helping Joe, neither of them could get the things working and in Joe’s ears.   I’d walk by the bathroom door, and Joe would be on all fours searching for an itsy-bitsy battery dropped on the floor.  Over time it became contentious, with me insisting he wear them and him refusing.

That was back when we still didn’t understand it really wasn’t just hearing loss, but something far more serious, and another part of our Al problem.  I don’t remember when I stopped nagging Joe about the hearing aids, but I stopped and now the little buggers just stay in the box. 

It has since become routine to repeat virtually everything.  I can picture it in my head: 

Joe hears me speaking…Al starts doing the “la, la, la” thing in Joe’s ear, which totally frustrates Joe.   Joe then replies in an annoyed tone, “WHAT”.

 I get irritated at his tone, purse my lips and then start repeating myself.  This is particularly fun in a restaurant or a crowded room.  Sometimes I feel like we are doing a bad imitation of Abbott and Costello. 

Yes, I am making light of this.  What else can we do? We can’t change what is happening.  

I said, “We can’t change what is happening”.

I’m getting really good at guessing games and interpreting the clicks and whistles Joe uses to finish sentences.  It’s like Al is hacking into Joe’s brain, systematically deleting certain words and messing up files. And it isn’t just files in Joe’s brain.  Last week, a folder was removed from our office file cabinet in the garage.   We have no idea what happened to it, but it is completely missing.  Mysterious.

This week, I got a call from a longtime friend that we hadn’t talked to in a couple of years.  He had read my blog, which was the first he had heard of our Al problem.  (Of course he had seen earlier symptoms.) We talked for quite a while just catching up.  Finally he asked if Joe knew that I was writing the blog, and if so was he okay with it. 

That’s a good question. 

The answer:  Yes, I think Joe is somewhat relieved to have people really “get” what is happening.  It must be hard to feel that something is going sideways with your mind and try to conceal it from people you know, and even people that you don’t know.   We’ve been in a restaurant ordering dinner and had a server simply ask, “What would you like to drink?”, and I’ve seen the desperate look on Joe’s face realizing that he absolutely cannot come up with words like “non-alcoholic beer.” It’s still humiliating for him when it happens, and he tries to cover it up as best he can.

We both understand that having “Al” in the house, so to speak, is not shameful.  Alzheimer’s is just a cruel disease with a random need to destroy.  If we just give up and lie down, Al will run over us and we’ll wind up with tire marks on our foreheads.  

So we’re exercising, eating healthy, and laughing as much as we can.  It may be a short term strategy, but for right now it’s working.  All the little things, the ones that used to drive me crazy are really “mox nix”.  (Well, that’s an exaggeration.  The crumbs under the kitchen table still set me off.)

I miss the planning and plotting for house flips, and Joe reminding me that we’re over budget, again.  I miss those long conversations about life and kids and work.  I miss arguing with Joe about why he shouldn’t run for political office and why I could never be a politician’s wife.  (Don’t get me started.) Those were the things that made us a couple. The thing is, I can remember that couple and sometimes Joe can’t.

I think memories are possessions that you don’t think about until you really can’t think about them.  Think about it.

I’m going to the grocery this morning.  I’ve got to remember to buy Joe a comb.  They keep jumping out of his pocket.  I wonder how many times a day most people say the word “remember”.