Friday, September 16, 2016
Joe mumbles to himself as he searches from room to room. I’m not exactly sure what he’s looking for. He walks into the living room and sits down. Seconds later, he’s back on his feet peering out the window toward the front of the house.
“What are you looking for?” I ask.
Joe doesn’t answer my question and by now has likely forgotten what it was. Instead he responds, “Why are they parking there? Whose car is that? Do we know those people?”
It turns out Joe has been looking for his electric razor but honestly, I have no idea where it is since half of our belongings are still in boxes in the garage right where they’ll stay for the next several weeks as I’m replacing flooring and managing several other small remodeling projects.
Yes, we’re back in Bend, Oregon, safe and somewhat sound. In reality Joe’s settling into our new surroundings more quickly than I would have expected considering all the stress he experienced during the sale of the house in Arizona and the trip here. Once again I was reminded that change is just not easy when we’re traveling through the United States of Alzheimer’s.
At one point in our trip Joe’s anxiety spilled over, certain our grandson Bryan was going the wrong direction. Joe demanded we stop the car and turn around. Bryan had made the trip from LA and Central California many times and, of course, knew exactly where we were going.
Unable to convince Joe--and sensing he was becoming more agitated by the second—we decided to stop for gas, hoping he would calm down. By the time I got my credit card out of my wallet to give to Bryan, Joe was already out of the car heading for the convenience store. I hurried in after him thinking he might be telling the clerk he’d been kidnapped or be looking for a phone to call 911. I was relieved to find him in front of a freezer case selecting his favorite snack “Little Dibs” ice cream.
In the meantime, Bryan (who I’ll be forever grateful to for traveling with us) was on his cell phone with his mother telling her to call Grandpa and distract him while we traveled the seventy or so remaining miles to her home.
Juli has always had the “Midas Touch” when it comes to her father, and this was no exception. She stayed on the phone with Joe talking about sports or whatever it took to keep his mind off the road. She traveled with us on the last leg of the trip and made a point to ensure that Joe was tracking our progress all the way to Oregon.
As for me…well let’s just say I hope it’s the last road trip I make with Joe and Al.
I love the smell of the air in Central Oregon. It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve been; not floral like Portland or citrusy like the desert, but fresh with complex undertones of pine, juniper, sage and bitterbrush, mixed with a hint of wood smoke.
It’s funny how smells can bring long kept memories to the conscious mind. One whiff of Bend air and I’m transported back to a crisp evening years ago camping in the high lakes with my parents. Or, to a time in the 80’s standing on the balcony of our Bend vacation rental with Joe watching all five kids playing in the pool.
Today I picked blackberries from the bushes in the yard and smiled as I looked down at my purple fingers. I was thinking about the upcoming weekend and all the people we’ll see wearing purple supporting the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s”. We’ve entered a team in Joe’s honor and he’ll be going along with us in his wheelchair. It’ll be a good time for both of us here in Bend with our friends and family.
I hope I can make it through the two-mile track because it’s been a while since I’ve been able to get out and walk. The old back hasn’t been the same since our trip to the Grand Canyon last year when our granddaughter and I took turns pushing Joe’s wheelchair half way around the south rim. But, that’s a whole other story.