Organized Chaos

A Reflection on Alzheimer’s

“Milk, milk, milk.” Say it every step on your way downstairs so you remember why you went to the kitchen.

You always wanted to be involved in progress, clinical trials.

Remember when you first befriended Pete in business school? You saw that he’d scored higher than anyone else on the statistics final, so you asked him to tutor you. Now he’s your husband.

Names and faces. So many names and faces.

One of your daughters is living in Turkey. She has a boyfriend for the first time in decades! They met each other on a pilgrimage in Spain.

When you first told your children about your diagnosis, you did it via email after the holiday gatherings were over. The day you sent the message, you got four crying children on the phone. They love you; they wanted a family meeting.

Remember when you ran a business? You weren’t working when you got the diagnosis. Wait, no, you might have been! You worked too long, too long. You didn’t want to tell your employees, didn’t want them to have “the fear factor.”

You made your husband promise to be your driver and caregiver. You told him, “Pete, you’d better study up on what this is!”

The ugliest part of the process is figuring out what the next steps should be. “Milk, milk, milk.” Sometimes, at the beginning, you didn’t even want to get out of bed, but now there are new things, exciting things! Now you paint. You always wanted to paint.

You always wanted progress.

You’ve had season tickets to Michigan basketball for decades and decades and decades. When you first started going with your husband, you were just three seats from the front row. You saw the sweat and heard the groans — absolutely amazing! Then for a while you were eight rows back — not as great, but still in the thick of things. Ah, yes, but then came the tragedy: someone decided your first twenty years of loyalty didn’t count, or you hadn’t donated enough, or something. Your seats were moved way far away.

“Are we talking about anything we’re supposed to be?”

Michigan sports, a foundation of your marriage.

Also square dancing. Another foundation. Nominated by the group as “least likely to succeed,” but you kept at it. Fun, different, challenging…but obliged to stop when you couldn’t follow the caller’s instructions. Memory can be an ugly thing.

“The years went on, a few more.”

This place right here: it takes you back to your roots. There’s a reason you’re here. You’re finding new joy.

“The team, the team, the team.”

Photo by Kate Brieger, Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Fall 2014.



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