Monday, September 24, 2007
We are visiting a new neurologist today. I don't know if he's an Alzheimer's specialist, but we're shopping for an upgrade. Flip's present doctor is like the Masked Man. She comes into the examining room shooting words from both hips to knock us dead with her knowledge, then dismisses us. I'm sure we can do better. He deserves better. Someone who will answer our questions and address our concerns, who will actually give a damn.
Last night, Flip asked me if the doctor would be giving him scans. "No," I said. "We'll just be talking with him. We're interviewing him to see if we like him."
"Ok. But if he uses the word 'ga ga,' we're outa' there." "Or 'scrambled eggs'," I added. "'Nut job.'" "He'll get a knee to the groin," said my gentle husband. "There's your nut job right there."
Thursday night, we're going to a lecture by David Shenk who has written a book about Alzheimer's, "The Forgetting," which I'm reading now. It's depressing, to say the least. The disease has reached epidemic proportions. The prognosis is horrible. It is incurable, in part because nobody knows what causes it. Flip is phenomenally young for this diagnosis. An unwelcome precocity. There will come a time when I, who am older, will have to think for both of us. Contrary to popular belief, this is not what anyone wants in a relationship.
As some of you may know from a previous post, we've been dealing with this for a few years. I have vacillated between despair and denial, and have not always been as patient as I should be. I struggle daily with this challenge. It must be one of my big life lessons because I'm not there yet. I believe that we come into each incarnation intending to learn specific lessons and that life gives us the opportunities to learn them. It provides these opportunities with increasing urgency, knocking gently on our door at first and continuing to knock harder each time. Eventually, if we still don't learn, it kicks the door in.
It would help if we could remember what our lessons are, but we come into being with full amnesia, or it sets in soon after our birth. I remember being conscious of a fully-developed adult mind living inside my baby body, but when I tried to communicate my thoughts, all that came out of my mouth was baby-burble and my parents laughed at my endearing helplessness. All my attempts to express myself were frustrated by the limitations of this inept body and at some point, I gave up and became a new person who had to relearn everything I was born knowing. I wore diapers.
It is heartbreaking that Flip's illness provides an opportunity for me to learn patience, even as I understand that we are all here to learn from each other. Our lives are intertwined and every one of us is a mirror and potential lesson to all who inhabit our world. There is both comfort and pain in this. It is also a great inducement to treat others kindly.
Alzheimer's oddly imitates the learning process of children, but in reverse. Like a sharpshooter, it gradually picks off all the skills a person possesses, taking him progressively backward as he slowly but surely unlearns all that he has spent a lifetime learning. I already know the prognosis. I guess what I want from this new doctor is hope. And I'm not sure that he can give that. We will probably have to settle for kindness.