No matter what he was called, today he was my doctor and the look on his face was one of concern. “The report is not good, Delores.”
“If I have loss of memory, how would I remember if I’d had loss of memory?”
Dr. Dave laughed and said, “That’s a good point. I never thought of it that way. Have you been losing your keys or glasses a lot?”
“What about directions to places you’ve gone for years? Do you forget how to get there?”
“Is it getting worse?”
“The MRI shows the beginning signs of dementia. I’d like to give you some material to study. The next time you come in we’ll talk more about it.” He looked at me with pity in his eyes. He thinks I’m going to cry. I’ll cry tonight. I thought as I looked back at him.
“What can I expect?” I asked, ignoring his reference to the printed material.
“Well, basically you’ll start forgetting more often. You’ll have more trouble remembering what has happened recently. Your memory of things that happened years ago will remain intact for a while longer.”
“How long will it take?”
“Oh don’t worry about it. You’ll have many years to learn about this disease. You are very intelligent and will function very well in spite of the dementia. I’m sure you will learn to cope until the disease progresses significantly.”
“That sounds like doctor code for ‘I really don’t know.’”
“It is. I’m sorry. I wish I had better news.”
“That’s alright,” I said as I gathered my things to go. “I’ll figure it out.” What I didn’t tell him is that his diagnosis is no surprise. I have suspected it and have logged many hours at the computer researching the disease and its effects.
As I drove home, my grandson’s face came to mind. He’s still a baby. There’s a chance that when I’m standing at his high school graduation, I won’t know where I am or why I’m there. I won’t know who he is or his relationship to me. People will be applauding and celebrating, but I won’t know why. My body will be there, but my mind will be lost. I will be at a celebration for someone I love, but I’ll miss the whole event. Tonight I’ll cry. Tomorrow I may not remember.
I thought of my beautiful daughter. She’s not only my daughter, she’s my friend. If she weren’t my daughter, I’d love her anyway. Her strength and courage has been an inspiration to me for years. It broke my heart when she went out into the world for a while. But when she returned to God, her strength brought her back and then allowed her to leave an abusive marriage. I watched and marveled at the steps she took to leave safely. Then I watched her pull herself together, study the word of God, and reenter the world with a strong shield of faith.
Even as an adult, my daughter wants to sit on my lap in a time of emotional crisis. Someday she’ll face a crisis and although I’ll be sitting right there, I won’t be there to comfort her. If she sits on my lap, she will receive no response from me. I won’t know who she is or why she is sitting on my lap. Tonight I’ll cry. Tomorrow I may not remember.
As I cooked beef tips and rice for dinner, I was amazed at how many things I do without thinking about them. I know the day will come when it won’t be safe for me to cook. I won’t remember the correct temperature or ingredients. I won’t even remember to turn the burner off. My gourmet cooking skills will be reduced to placing a box in the microwave and pushing the button. My husband will be cooking for himself. I love to cook for him and he loves my cooking. I’ll miss cooking but I won’t know why. Tonight I’ll cry. Tomorrow I may not remember.
Sidney, my husband of over forty years knows something is wrong. He has watched me and commented for several months on my cognitive changes. I know he is concerned, but I’m so tired of him asking “Are you alright?” No, I’m not alright. My world is slipping away and all I can do is watch it go. Everyone forgets where they parked the car sometimes. I forget where I am and what my car looks like. Sometimes I can’t remember my name or phone number.
In his usual effort to ‘fix’ things, my husband has suggested we create some emergency cards with contact information and leave in my purse for the times I forget. Sweet suggestion, but I resent being reduced to little more than a child handing a note to my teacher. I am an educated, intelligent woman who should be able to remember basic information. Tonight I’ll cry. Tomorrow I may not remember.
“By the way,” Sidney said as we dressed for bed, “I forgot to ask. How was your doctor’s appointment?”
“It was fine. Just as I suspected, I am in the beginning stages of dementia.”
“Oh, Honey. I’m so sorry.” He said as he wrapped both arms around me.
“He said that I would probably learn to cope for a while and then I’d start forgetting things that happened recently. Later I’d forget the past.”
As we snuggled in our bed, I felt safe and protected. “Sweetheart?” Sidney said in my ear. “I’ll be with you every step of the way. I’ll take care of you as long as God gives me strength.”
Soon I hear his soft snoring begin and know that I am alone with my thoughts for the first time today. I creep softly out of bed and find my bible. Alone on the sofa I turn to the third chapter of Ecclesiastes and read To everything there is a season,…
The tears start flowing before I finish the chapter. Tomorrow I may not remember.