Both my darlin’ parents, 90 and 95 now, suffer from age-related dementia. I’m years below sixty, but some days I’m positive they inherited it from me.
Occasionally during conversations, I can’t get the proper word out. I do a mental scramble, searching for a substitute, and spit it out quick, before anyone notices. Sometimes it works.
I regularly say one word when I mean another: popcorn for parrot, cloud for crowd, barbecue for baseball… like that. My family finds it funny.
Sometimes I confuse our pets’ names. Mix up the grandbeans’ names. Can’t remember new names. But I’ve never been good at names.
My mind often wanders during conversations that don’t interest me. I can’t concentrate on books the way I used to. Some mornings, I have to read the same page in my Bible several times. Every so often, the only prayer I can manage is a prayer of gratitude that when we can’t pray, the Holy Spirit does our praying for us.
And numbers? Well. I prefer not to discuss those. I will, though. I remember my age and birth year, our phone number and address. Just don’t ask me to store your important numbers. It comforts me that I’ve never enjoyed math, though I’ve managed to maintain an adequate grip on simple mental calculations.
On top of all that, I smell burnt toast so often it’s become comfortable. I’ve even grown fond of the fragrance. Laying in bed in the mornings, waking to that smell helps me get up to burn some real stuff.
I haven’t mentioned any of this to my doctor, but I did spill my concerns to my sister. “I think I’m getting Alzheimer’s,” I said.
In her sternest big sister voice, the one she has used for more than half a century to set me straight, she said, “You’re NOT getting Alzheimer’s. You KNOW you’ve always been scatter-brained. You might have ADHD or something. But not Alzheimer’s.”
I’ve asked her to keep reminding me that I’ve always been forgetful. Like the burnt toast ghost that follows me, it’s comforting, in a sort of sinister way.
My concern about my gray matter made me take note of a recent announcement about a new online memory test (www.cogniciti.com) to help people determine the validity of their age-related dementia suspicions.
I took the test. It confirmed my sister’s diagnosis: twitterpated. But only as much as about half of people my age and with my education. It seems my old gray cells are a lot of what they’ve always been: Creatively selective, but (so far) not demented.
Today I pray, “Lord, I refuse to live in fear of dementia. I may get it, but I don’t want to waste these good years in worry and apprehension. Help me to trust your Word instead:
“I will be your God throughout your lifetime — until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you!” Isaiah 46:4