Monday, May 16, 2011

A Wee Bit o' Reality

I received a call from my doctor's office the other day. The receptionist told me that the doctor had requested I come in to his office. I felt this was strange, since I'd only just been to see him a week or two before this call. Everything checked out well, at that time, and he had not sent me for any tests.

I questioned the receptionist as to what the reason might be; she mumbled something about a medical review. Even though I had no idea what the doctor might be reviewing, I allowed myself a small bit of hope...had they perhaps found a new treatment for Fibro I hadn't heard about?

Since I didn't know what the whole thing might entail, I cancelled one appointment, as a result of having visitors that week. I thought, when I phoned and cancelled, that the receptionist ( a different lady, this time) sounded a little knowing. When she realized I didn't know what the appointment was about, she changed the subject to how cool the weather has been.

I didn't think much about The was just another thing to do in an already busy week ahead.

I was still not thinking about what the doctor might want, out of the blue like this, when I settled myself in his office. My mind was on a whole cadre of different tasks I had ahead of me.

After the preliminary greetings, my doctor said...I guess you're wondering why you're here?...

I began to be aware that he was a wee bit nervous. And that made me focus more on where I was and...why was I here?

I could see him thinking...In for a penny, in for a pound...and, with a little grin, he told me that since I was on a couple of medications for Fibromyalgia that could cause either Alzheimer's disease or dementia, that Fibro itself can cause them, he felt, at my age, that I should be tested for those two conditions.

All I heard was Dementia, Alzheimer's and...test. A test!

Good grief. My eyebrows shot up and I stared at him, wide-eyed.

My doctor, who reminds me of one of my granddaughter Brianna's friends...he seems about that young...began to giggle nervously. For him, I suppose, it must have felt as if he was facing his grandmother. I could see and feel his apprehension at what he was planning on doing.

He quickly explained. My doctor felt that aging was one of the things the medical profession was ignoring. He is all about prevention, he said, and since I'd just turned sixty, he felt he had to talk with me to make sure I knew what aging was all about.

Excuse me?

And then he went on to state statistics...on average, women die at the age of 75 and men at the age of 72. Women usually get Alzheimer's and dementia more than men, who statistically die of stroke or heart attack. He hurriedly explained, as I was about to fall off the chair, that these were only statistics...most people live much longer.

I kept thinking...they must have gotten those figures from somewhere!

I began to usual reaction to shock. Some perspective arrives, after I let out inappropriate and nervous, forceful energy in laughter. Usually.

My doctor watched me. My laughter took on a nervous edge...was he already thinking I was demented?

I told him I couldn't pass the test...I could hardly remember anything. I told him I had recently joined and that I was doing brain exercises every day. I told him I took my dog for walks every day, that I worked hard physically in the garden. I told him I could not pass tests...even an eye examination has sweat pouring down my face.

I tried to come up with as much as possible, to prove I was still mentally coherent...anything, just so I wouldn't have to take that test. I caught myself almost begging...

The doctor ignored it all. He told me the test was very simple, it was not about the questions so much as how I dealt with them, my body language, and so on. And that there was much that could now be done to help with dementia/Alzheimer's.

Well. If one knows one is to be tested for losing their minds, then perhaps one can visit the doctor in a better, more prepared frame of mind, one not shut down by shock and stupefaction, at the fact that statistically, at the age of sixty, there may only be fifteen years left to one...

I have never contemplated how much longer I would have to live. I knew about those statistics the doctor rattled off to me. I just had no idea they applied to me. I have forever held the opinion I would live to be 104. But, even if I lived to be eighty or ninety, there are only twenty or thirty years, conceivably, left to live.

Time goes very quickly, these days. The last ten years have gone by in a flash...

He began the test. He asked me the date, where I lived, what country I was in, where his office was. He asked me to remember three, table, and penny. Except he has a South African accent and penny came out of his mouth as pain.

He looked astonished as I recited apple, table and pain back to him, when he asked what three words I was to remember. He mentioned it again, again I heard pain. He tried to describe the penny; he said it was a coin, a round metal object you pay with. Still! I heard pain. I could not think what pain had to do with a coin.

Addled, I watched him take his wallet out and hold up a penny. Oh! Oh! A penny!

I just knew I would be the first person declared demented because I couldn't understand an accent.

After that, I was asked to write a sentence, fold a paper and place it on the floor, and subtract seven from 100, then seven from 93, etc.

It all caught up with me in the subtraction. After 93, I no longer knew who, where, what or why. I stared at the doctor, my mind a complete blank. Were there other numbers? What was a number? Oh, my goodness...

For just a second or two, I learned what Alzheimer's might be like for those so afflicted. For just that moment, my brain felt like a hole, like there was only Air where my brain should be.

The doctor watched me; suddenly, I could tell he was a doctor, albeit young, and a good one. 

He was aware of my struggle and so, I didn't try to hide it. I showed my astonishment, for only a moment, and then, closed my eyes and concentrated like never before...

After what seemed like hours but was really only seconds, I was able to visualize the numbers once more. I was able to think once again.

After the questions were completed and after the doctor told me I passed the test in the high percentile, we discussed the moment where my mind went completely blank.

He told me this occurs more often in the aging brain. He explained why...something about blood flow, lack of exercise and a few more ditties I have stuffed away until I'm ready to really have a good think about them.

He warned me about lack of acceptance of aging; he'd seen too many people become angered and embittered at themselves and their partners/families because of impatience and fear of increasing age-related problems.

It is the way it is...he said...I am concerned that here in this country we ignore aging, we try to stay young. Any signs we might be getting older are hidden. And then I see the elderly not getting the respect they deserve, only because their bodies and minds cannot keep up with the young...

He looked so earnest and so young as we chatted. He knew I worked with elderly patients; he was somewhat surprised at my shocked reaction to the test. He said...You are a senior, after all.

And therein lies the rub. I have not, as yet, considered myself a senior. Nor have I ever considered how many years might be left, in my life.

A wee bit o' reality is a good thing, for the Queen of Denial.

On the drive home, I tasted the word senior, as it applied to me.

It felt good. 

Actually, it felt right!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A Thoughtful Spring

Graydon and his tongue!
It feels like ages since I've written...and when I look at the date, it is. Time is speeding up these days; there doesn't seem to be enough of it to get every last item on the to-do list struck off.

And...Spring has not let coolish weather deter her. My old friends...Ligularia, Hosta, Poppy, Tulips...are not growing as quickly as I'd like, but growing they are. Today, after a long wait, after a period of time where it only Snowed, it's been Raining. I love every precious drop!

I felt so homesick after our last visit to the Coast at Easter. We had such a great time, seeing all of them...

Pretending to choke...ahh, Graydon!
The family is, every one, doing well; we missed Barb and Bryan, who were off on a Hawaiian cruise. Brianna began her new job last Saturday and has really applied herself to her school work. Graydon...ahh, Graydon! He rarely smiles for the camera anymore; instead, with his eyes dancing, out comes his tongue. Each and every time! What else would a four year old boy do? I find him very handsome, regardless.

Brianna and Keauni (I think!)
The whole family descended upon my daughter and son-in-law's home for a superb Ham and Scalloped Potatoes dinner for Easter. The twins were adorable in their first Easter dresses...yellow and beribboned! I was so impressed with my grandson Graydon...there was absolutely no sign of jealousy, as he gently stroked baby arms and legs. At that moment, he fell in love with Kaleelah and Keauni, just as all the rest of us have.

Our sad Lucky with his Bear
Upon our return to the Cariboo, we found Lucky sleeping on furniture, trying to find comfort, I imagine. He's never done that before. He also confined himself in the garage, by nosing open the door, and did a fair bit of damage to the car parked inside and the door...

Poor old Puppy. I knew it was much too soon to leave him after Nate's death; yet plans had been made. It will take him awhile to relax again, to not have his nose stuck to my jeans..

Anybody remember the But an' Ben?
We welcomed visitors from Scotland shortly after our return from our Easter holiday. It took me only a short while, this time around, to tune my ear to the Scottish accent and sayings. We were the lucky recipients of a book as a hostess gift...Maw Broon's But an' Ben Cookbook. I'm not familiar with Maw Broon, but I listened to the memories the book brought back for Graham. In perusing it, I find many Scottish folk tales within, not to mention some great recipes such as Nettle Soup, which requires a glug o' cream...

Nettle Soup!
It feels to me like change is in the Air...more change than only transitioning into Spring. Do you feel it? It was so difficult to leave the Coast...not just the family, but also the Ocean, the gardens and Flowers. The green.

It is time, now, to make plans to move back home. Heartache for something so much a part of me...the Sea Coast and coming to an end.

There is no rush, heart soreness notwithstanding. We will look carefully at all options, this time, before we leap. I am anticipating the planning, sometimes so much more exciting than actually doing the event. I am aware of the amount of work moving entails...

But there is more than just a change of residence, I think, within me. For instance, I have recently undergone a long dry period wherein I could not read anything of any content.
It's interspersed with stories and cartoons

I found myself reading magazines, anything of little matter, to lull myself to sleep at night. Yet, I continue to buy books...the pile of unread books on my night table is growing the hopes that soon I might want to actually read one.

I believe this odd behaviour on my part might be coming to an end. I have recently finished reading two books...The Room and Little Bee. Both of these are gifts from my daughter and both were difficult, in an emotional way, for me.

But both seemed to open the door for further reading.
Kaleelah and Keauni asleep (1 mo. old)

Not reading concerned me. It was such a transition from my usual conduct...I have always found time to read. Books were my salvation; they allowed me to live in a different World, in a different way. Books saw me through so many parts of life from which I wanted escape.

I was actually terrified I would go through the rest of my life reading seed catalogues and People magazine. This last period of not being able to concentrate for long on any written sentence was a lengthy one.

And I am so glad it appears to be over! But quite incidentally, the other day I met an older friend in a bookstore. She was looking confused, which, if you know my friend, is a strange departure from the normal for her.

She looked at me...What should I read? she asked with some anxiety...

I suggested any number of titles to her. None seemed to interest her. Now, my friend once loved reading and begat the other, she'd tell me, over and over.

Keauni? Heh!
I was becoming confused. Finally, she admitted to me that she'd recently found no interest in reading. She would pick up a book, she said, and find herself still with the cover closed a long while after she'd sat down to read.

I told her my story. We looked at each other, perplexed. She said...I wonder if it is because of all the short snippets I read and write on the internet? All that instant messaging and stuff? Short bits, here and there?...

I thought about it and finally, had to say I didn't know. I do the same on the Internet. But I know many people who don't let short bits of information from the Internet stop them from reading books with meaty content.

It's just a stage...I told her...A stage in life with too many other things on your mind. It feels like that with me. It feels like I can't settle...

Kaleelah and Keauni
She wasn't convinced. She left the bookstore with a pile of magazines and said she was happy she could still concentrate on those. Later, after I'd thought about our conversation, I was sure she felt her age was also to blame.

And there's another transition. Sixty was a turning point for me...all of a sudden, I have more confidence than I've ever had. And I can't explain that, either.

Change is a part of life, of course. Many times throughout my life a sojourn I feel comfortable on comes to an end and another begins. I can't foresee any of it. 

Purple suits the two of them!
For me, the best thing I can do is accept each day, each change as it comes. If I can't concentrate on the written word for awhile, well, there are other things, other hobbies which get me through.

And, perhaps, the story in my head and the story in my friend's head is much more interesting to me and she than anything we could read. 

There is a whole lifetime there, in our minds, after all.