Yesterday I made a fried egg sandwich, ate it, left the house to go shopping, came back two hours later, and turned the burner off under the frying pan. I thought maybe I should put an X on the calendar so we could have a definitive date for the onset of my Alzheimer’s Disease but my husband said, no, I’d done it before.
I wasn’t so sure.
It seemed an especially egregious error. Noteworthy.
The stove incident led me to wondering about what might have been my mother’s watershed event, the moment she knew she was at a point of no return. She’d had Alzheimer’s Disease for many years before I knew about it. We were estranged, split over a bad telephone conversation, something so inconsequential that if I told you right now what it was, you’d shake your head and wonder what kind of person I am. In any event, many years passed until my father started writing me letters. The letters dribbled out the truth until I got the full picture. My mother was losing her mind.
When, after many years, I finally saw my mother face to face, she remembered me, knew my name, but I think she’d been practicing. There were thin wisps of memory around her and I was one of them. But I was floating away and I could feel it, what I was, what I had been to her, was fast becoming ephemeral. We sat together on the couch and she pulled out an old family scrapbook. It was the one with pictures of her family when they spent time at a cabin at Gun Lake in Michigan. She pointed to a little girl sitting at the end of the dock, “the little one,” she said, “the little one.” It was her sister Marjory.
There were more times like that with my mother, times when she was leaving me just the briefest of notes, words that she’d found in her pocket. It was too late to ask her how it had been to lose her mind. I’d missed that chance. There was no backtracking on the journey she had already made while I was gone.
So I wonder about the fried egg incident and whether it was a random event or the beginning. I wonder how many random events my mother had before she started to string them together into the noose that would become her Alzheimer’s Disease. How many times she left the house with the flame still burning under a frying pan. It’s chilling to consider. So I won’t.
As part of World Alzheimer’s Month, the Alzheimer’s Association is conducting charitable walks across the country. I’m walking in Milwaukee’s walk in honor of my mother, Virginia. Each of us has a relative or a friend who has struggled with this disease. Consider doing the Alzheimer’s Walk for them. Funds raised will support research for a cure and help for caregivers. Find a walk by going to http://www.alz.org.