Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Alzheimic Day

Before you read this blog please understand that when I’m really afraid—like when I haD cancer years ago—I use humor to reduce stress. I know Alzheimer’s and Dementia are horrible conditions, and fear of being diagnosed with either is something many seniors have, especially if like me, they watched it destroy a parent. I deal with my fear of this illness with humor and that is what this blog is about—laughter is still a great medication, especially as we age. I do not mean to minimize the illness.

Alzheimic Day

Every time I took my mother, who suffered from Dementia, to her various doctors they would immediately ask her the date to check on her state of mental awareness. She always knew the answer, even long after Dementia had claimed most of her gray matter. My memory of her rapid response scares the heck out of me. I rarely know the date since I stopped writing it on the board each morning in my classroom about nine years ago. Today, one of my recently retired friends confessed on Facebook she doesn’t even know which day of the week it is anymore!

Last week, I had my first Alzheimic (new word) Day. Until then my memory lapses rarely lasted more than the infamous senior moments I’ve been having since I was a senior in high school.

Once a week, I play Mah Jongg in the clubhouse of our development and the gals in my game alternate driving. To all of us there is nothing dumber and more wasteful than seeing women or men who live on the same neighborhood all driving their own cars to go to the same place at the same time.

Anyway, my friend honked her car horn to announce her arrival. Hubby went outside to tell her I was searching for my eyeglasses. Prior to cataract surgery, I always wore them, so they were never misplaced. Since the surgery, I spend half my day looking for my specs and the other half looking for my car keys. After 5 minutes of rushing and hunting, Hubby informed me that he found them—they were dangling from my shirt. I then went to my kitchen cabinet to get my Mah Jongg card* and the few dollars in change I needed to play the game. I glanced at the label on the card—you know the kind we use for return addresses—and it was my old address, which meant it was an old card.

Since someone in my game always has an extra Mah Jongg card, I left my house and drove with my friend to the clubhouse. As we were walking in, my cell rand. It was another player in our game. “Where are you? I’m beeping and no one is home.”

It was the caller's turn to drive. This made me feel better about my forgetfulness because the person who picked me up is 4 years younger than me. Not only didn’t she remember she wasn’t driving, but both of us forgot to pick up the other players. By the time we started our game, we both were up another notch on our fear that the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or Dementia—the undoing of both of our Momshad arrived.

By the end of the game that day, my forgetful friend and myself were the “big” winners—I think we won a couple of dollars each. We both decided to panic about having the beginning stages of the dreaded illness when we forget how to play the game, not when we forget where we put our card or who is supposed to drive.

My glee lasted until I came home and picked up what I had earlier in the day thought was last year’s card and resumed my search. The card had 2010 on the front and the address label was clearly that of my new home. Maybe if I stop wearing my reading glasses around my neck and put them on my nose, I’ll go back to having “senior moments” and not “Alzheimic Days.”

*Each year the Mah Jongg League prints a card with “hands”—combination of various tiles—that the player must match with the tiles he or she gets when he or she picks—kind of like gin rummy but with tiles in lieu of cards.

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