Losing It – Or Not?

Losing It – Or Not?

old young woman.jpg

“How long are we supposed to keep the cards up?” Mary, my co-worker was confirming our plans as we worked on stocking some greeting cards.

“Until January 20th.”

“Until January?” The puzzled look on Mary’s face matched the confusion in her voice.

“No. No! July 20th. Not January. Don’t even ask me where that came from! We’re supposed to keep the Father’s Day cards up until then.”

“The Father’s Day cards?” Again, Mary has a look of utter confusion on her face.

“Ugh! No. Not Father’s Day cards. Graduation cards.”

Why did these wrong words keep rolling out of my mouth? It was starting to scare me. Now granted, we were both tired and had just finished a grueling holiday season that ran from Valentine’s Day, to Easter, to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation. We’d had more hours than either of us liked for the past four months and we were exhausted.

But, still…

I’d love to pass it all off as exhaustion setting in and my numb brain was feeling the effects. But what made it scary for me is my family history of Alzheimer’s, or Dementia. I know that there’s a medical difference between the two. I tried to look it up one time. I remember that one is treatable and one is not. However I don’t think many people understand the differences between the two and both diagnoses are used interchangeably in society in general, along with our own personal family.

One or the other, whichever one it is, all I know is that three of my four grandparents suffered from it, along with Papa Goss, my great-grandfather – Grandma Jones’ dad.

I was around eight years old when Papa Goss died. A year or so earlier than that, he’d had to be put in a home, because his mental condition had deteriorated so badly. Being so young, I don’t remember the particulars. I only remember the joking about it, about ‘going to Norwalk’, which was synonymous for ‘going crazy’, or ‘losing it’, having to give live in ‘the looney bin.’ When I think of it now, it seems callous and cruel, yet I know that wasn’t the intent. A devastating situation had intruded upon the family, unasked. There were two ways to react – we cry or we laugh. The family chose laughter. That was our coping mechanism to deal with something that none of us would wish on another living person.

Years later I heard stories about Grandma Cline, in her last years. I heard about the time there were guests in the house and Grandma entered the room stark naked. Now this was Grandma Cline we’re talking about. The woman who never showed more neck or arm than she had to. The most modest woman I’ve ever known. If it were earlier years, she would have been one that wouldn’t have dared show an ankle in public.

It took Grandpa Cline years to catch up with her. He lived until age 97. Unfortunately, his mind slowed long before his body stopped. I remember visiting Uncle Arnold’s house one weekend in Arizona, when Grandpa Cline was there visiting from Indiana. As I left the table to use the restroom, I overheard Grandpa asking Aunt Phyllis, “Who is that woman?”

Aunt Phyllis answered, “Why, that’s Patsy.” I wasn’t crushed, because I understood that Grandpa’s mind hadn’t been his own for quite some time.

And then Grandma Jones began to follow in her father’s footsteps. We could tell when Grandma’s mind began to slip. Fortunately it wasn’t in drastic ways and she was still able to live alone, independently, until her last stroke a few weeks before her death at age 85. But we could see the progression worsening slowly.

So, yes, when I stand there and mix up my months, and several minutes later mix up a holiday event, I panic.

I can guarantee you, when I get emails from my all-time favorite doctor, Dr. Andrew Weil, whenever they mention Alzheimer’s or Dementia…I open those!

I want to live to an old age – 85 to 95 sounds just about right to me. But I want to do in a healthy body, with full mental capacity.

So when a wrong word slips out of my mouth and I throw my hand over it, just ignore me. I’m trying to embrace life, all sixty years of it, and I want to stay sharp as a tack for the next twenty or thirty years too. Even if I end up joking about it ‘losing it’…because that’s the Jones family way…we’ll laugh ourselves out of anything.


25 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Retirement Reflections
    Oct 03, 2018 @ 05:11:46

    I have this same fear, Trisha, and the same coping mechanism. Thank you for this thought provoking post! #MLSTL


  2. Debbie Harris
    Oct 03, 2018 @ 09:46:53

    It’s an interesting time isn’t it Trisha? I’m trying to think of the name of a flower I should know but it just won’t come to me no matter how hard I try. It’s very frustrating at times but I think being tired and stressed have a lot to answer for! Keep laughing and you’ll be fine 🙂 #mlstl


  3. leannelc
    Oct 03, 2018 @ 11:52:53

    My dad had early onset dementia and started deteriorating in his early 70’s – I worry about it all the time when I lose a word or forget something or type the wrong spelling – then my husband reminds my that dad was an alcoholic and chain smoker and that was the reason he lost his faculties so early. That’s reassuring and what I hold onto for dear life! #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM 🙂


    • trishafaye
      Oct 03, 2018 @ 22:53:46

      I’m sorry to hear that Leanne. Then you understand how forgetting a word or a name and throw us into the ‘Oh no! Is this the first step?’ syndrome. Thank goodness for your husbands loving reassurances.


  4. Cindy McCabe
    Oct 03, 2018 @ 14:00:47

    Very appropriate, Trisha. As my parents’ celebrate (NOT) their 71st wedding anniversary today (Dad won’t remember and Mom will be angry about that fact and brew in her anger all day!) and I approach the age of 70, this is always on my mind. Humor for me has always been my saving grace, but sometimes it’s hard when you see those you love going absolutely bonkers. It can take his toll, but I’ll try to keep my humor flowing, no matter what!


    • trishafaye
      Oct 03, 2018 @ 22:52:26

      Wow, 71 years! That’s amazing Cindy!
      I wish that things were different and that they were able to celebrate and enjoy this accomplishment. It is so terribly hard to see your loved ones suffer from the devastating effects of dementia. Perhaps sometimes even harder on the loved ones.


  5. Natalie
    Oct 03, 2018 @ 18:57:01

    Enjoy life, do brain exercises, rest when you need to, and keep laughing, Trisha. #MLSTL


  6. Debbie Harris
    Oct 04, 2018 @ 10:06:20

    I finally got it – daphne!!


  7. Mother & Daughter
    Oct 04, 2018 @ 17:21:41

    There is neither issue in my family history but there are days I feel like I can’t speak a straight sentence. I worry about it myself because it has to start in a family somewhere.


  8. Mary Lou
    Oct 06, 2018 @ 11:02:15

    I like this style of voice where you are sharing your thoughts on this topic which I know is on the mind of many of us. My dad began a decline in his mid-sixties through 80 years old. It was sad to watch. We didn’t have a definite diagnosis; parkinsons? dementia? alzheimers? Now, some of us have been diagnosed with sleep apnea which is linked to dementia. Hopefully they’ll find more answer to this sad ending. Hang on to your sense of humor! Sharing on FB and Twitter for #MLSTL


  9. Deb
    Oct 07, 2018 @ 10:52:38

    I can feel for you as I have warned my husband many years ago that he just might have a wife that will need to be put in a rocking chair and given a doll to rock away her day. My grandfather was a wanderer,there were times we had to call the police for help as he had a terrible problem of trying to find his dead brother. I just hope when I start losing my mind is goes quickly. I watched that frustration of one minute knowing clearly ,then becoming confused… that’s the hard part.


    • trishafaye
      Oct 07, 2018 @ 21:21:35

      It’s such a devastating situation for the whole family. I think you’re right – the hardest part would be that nether-land between the all knowing and the knowing nothing.
      Here’s hoping we don’t reach those points!


  10. Sheryl
    Oct 08, 2018 @ 01:54:55

    A young colleague at work kept getting things messed up one day – and she just shrugged it off as “well, I tired, so what you can expect?” Since then, I’ve realized that both young people and older people have days when they are tired and things are just a bit off.


  11. Laurie Ryan
    Oct 08, 2018 @ 15:33:14

    Keep embracing life. No one knows what the future holds. I have heard Alzheimer’s described this way. If you forget where you left your keys (or what month cards to put away), you’re simply forgetting. If you forget what keys (or cards) are for, that’s Alzheimer’s. I hope that disease stays well clear of you, Trisha. Not fun. And hard to watch, though I liked to think, for the family members I knew with it, that they were in their happy place, and I just wasn’t able to find the door to join them. Sigh.


    • trishafaye
      Oct 08, 2018 @ 23:40:23

      I really like your description defining the difference between ordinary forgetfulness and Alzheimer’s. Perfect!
      And I really, REALLY love your thought about ‘they were in their happy place, and I just wasn’t able to find the door to join them.’ Excellent!
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing.


  12. Christie Hawkes
    Oct 16, 2018 @ 13:37:17

    My grandfather had Alzheimer’s and my mother has recently been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s, so when I can’t think of a word or forget someone’s name I should know, I always laugh and say, “It’s my Alzheimer’s.” Like you, I’d rather laugh than cry or worry about what might happen in the future. For now, I take care of my mind and body and hope for the best.


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