There’s nothing funny about Alzheimer’s disease. Usually when I say something like that, I’m joking. This time, I’m not.
My mother has Alzheimer’s, the kind that comes early and relegates a person in her sixties to a shell of her former self in just a few years. The kind that makes the son who lives in California feel pretty bad that today is the first day that he’s actually spent a whole day alone with her, caring for her.
Me: “Mom, where are you going?”
Mom: “I don’t know, but I’m going there!”
For a disease that assaults the minds of 5 million Americans, Alzheimer’s remains stubbornly mysterious. We don’t know what causes it, and we can’t prove you have it until you’re dead.
My mom has now been attempting to get dressed for 20 minutes. She came out of her room still in her nightgown. I asked her if she found her clothes.
“No. But I will. My clothes are somewhere. Aren’t they?”
My mom got all existential on me there. She could be my mother; she could be Sarte. She’s pretty heavy for a lady who spends all day in the same chair talking to Earth’s most annoying dog. Sometimes she also talks to Ellen DeGeneres through the magic of nonexistent two-way television.
“Do you know the people with the things?” she asks.
This is a valid question, but not one that provides me with sufficient information such that I might provide an intelligent answer. I fight back tears. I ask her if she’d like some more Diet Mountain Dew, which ironically potentially contributed to her current condition. It’s too late now. It doesn’t matter. Some people think eating kale or taking magnesium or avoiding sugar will help a little bit, but it’s not worth the trouble. We can genotype and find bosons and photograph Mars, but we have no idea why my mom doesn’t know who I am or where I live.
She eventually found her pants, and she’s wearing them correctly. Sometimes that’s the best we can do.