Tuesday, June 7, 2016


Joe with his two daughters, Juli and Jodi in 1968

My mind races.  It’s been an issue for me since I can remember.  I’ve always been what I call, “bi-focused”.  When I was in grade school, I recall my mother sitting down with my third grade teacher as she explained to mother that I had too much energy, couldn’t stick to one task at a time, and generally had the attention span of a fruit fly.  (Well, maybe that isn’t exactly what she said but that was the gist of it).  I couldn’t understand why they thought I had a problem.  Didn’t having all that energy make it easier for me to get a lot of things done?  Wasn’t that a good thing?  (I’m sure any therapist reading this post will disagree.)

When I was older, I got paid to multi-task, react quickly and think fast.  Those were desired abilities.  Of course, there were side effects like not sleeping and having to do yoga exercises at night or take drugs to get my mind to shut off, but that was just part of being hyper-productive, right?

Fast forward to today, here in Alzheimersville where speed only exacerbates our issues.
As the speed at which Joe processes information slows down, his world is slowing down (a consequence of having to drag Al around with him).   There are occasions when, by the time Joe reacts to something I’ve said, I’m miles of thought in another direction and have to put on the brakes and backtrack in order to converse with him.  The astronaut Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon, said it well describing how quickly thought could take him back to the surface of the moon.  He called it, “traveling at the speed of thought”.  That’s all it took for him to again be 238,900 miles from earth hopping in the lesser gravity (5/6 less than earth to be exact).

But your thoughts can only travel at the speed your brain is functioning.  If you’ve ever tried to work with an older outdated computer, you get the concept.  And as Al continues to downshift Joe’s brain functions, everything slows down, even the pace at which Joe eats.  Nowadays, I’ve finished my plate, cleaned up the kitchen and am ready to start the dishwasher by the time Joe’s barely started.  The other day it occurred to me that I was rushing him (about many things) and needed to sit down, relax and just wait.

When I stop and really consider our lives today, I can see that everything has slowed down.  Joe just needs more time; more time to shower and get dressed in the morning, more time to get from point “A” to point “B”, more time to think.  He’s now very deliberate in what he does.  There really isn’t another choice. 

None of that should surprise me.  In fact, it would be irrational for me to expect otherwise.  But, sometimes it seems that life is moving in slow motion; that we’re watching ourselves in a video and someone has tampered with the playback option.

I don’t mean to seem insensitive.  I’m just continually struck by how many parts of our life are impacted by Al.  In fact, I’d be stumped if you asked me to name something about our daily routine that has remained as it was prior to Al’s arrival.

Last week we got the results from the grueling half day of testing Joe went through several weeks ago.  I wasn’t surprised to hear that he most likely has an atypical form of Alzheimer’s, one that initially affects language but in most cases impairs memory and executive function as well.  He’s scheduled for a MRI later this week and I’m hopeful we’ll know even more.  Joe still hasn’t put the possibly of Vascular Dementia to bed, but I have. 

We’re heading to California for a visit with one of Joe’s daughters and her family.  I’m a little nervous about it, unsure how Joe and Al will manage the travel and being outside of their normal environment.  It seems so strange even to think about it.  After all, we’ll be with family.  What could happen?
Well, if you haven’t lived with Al before, you might have trouble grasping the scope of adjustments that are necessary.  Just going to a restaurant means planning ahead, avoiding any place that doesn’t take a reservation or has a complicated menu or spicy food.  Then there’s the need to avoid crowded or noisy spaces, or any place that’s too warm or too cold or has stairs.  That eliminates two thirds of all the places in the State of California.

 The pace of life at our daughter’s young family home will seem like “warp speed” to Joe, and for that manner, even me.  But with all that said, we can’t wait to get there.

When we return I’ll be starting in earnest packing for our move to Oregon.  I’m not concerned about getting ready.  After all, I’ve had a lot of practice. 

Maybe we could strap Al to the luggage rack on the top of the car like they did with “Granny” in the television show, The Beverly Hillbillies.

Yes, I know--it's a bad idea.