It takes me three tries to find the silverware drawer. I hand my seven-year-old daughter a spoon. She finishes her cereal, brushes her teeth, and we’re ready to go.
I can’t remember where I put my shoes. When searching for them, I spot my daughter’s library books that I forgot to return. Again.
After I locate my shoes, I’m finally ready to leave the house but then realize that I don’t have my sunglasses. I walk in and out of every room, hunting, desperate, mad at myself. Unsuccessful, I resign myself to spending the rest of the bright, summer day squinting when my daughter announces, “Mom, they’re on your head.”
I don’t have Alzheimer’s. I’m thirty-six years old, pregnant, and just moved into a new house in a new town. I’m tired from the move and the pregnancy and keeping up with the ceaseless needs of my life and family. And everything here is still unfamiliar.
In the old house, the silverware was kept in the drawer next to the refrigerator. Here, it is to the right of the sink. In the old house, we kicked off our shoes by the front door. Now, the front hallway is littered with towers of boxes, so our shoes end up somewhere else. My routine has been disrupted, and the mental map of where I live is under construction.
It’s no wonder I’m forgetting things. What a relief it is to know that this is normal and temporary, that once we’re moved in, once we get used to life here, once I have the baby (okay, when the baby turns four), then I’ll grab a spoon every time I reach for one and without even consciously thinking about it.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to have Alzheimer’s Disease—to experience these types of maddening lapses in cognition AND to know they will only keep happening and get worse. It must be more than frustrating and exhausting. It must be terrifying.
I think about how quick I was to give up on finding my sunglasses and do without them, and I wonder how readily people with dementia decide not to bother, to give up looking for the keys, that word, that thing.
Imagine if I’d moved AND had Alzheimer’s. This is precisely what happens in many families. Living alone becomes too dangerous for a grandmother, father, or aunt with Alzheimer’s, or the work of commuting and running two households becomes too much for caregivers living elsewhere. How difficult it must be for someone already coping with an unreliable mind to move to a new home! I’m not saying it’s wrong to have your grandmother, father, or aunt move in with you or to a care facility. I’m just saying—it must be incredibly hard to find the spoons.
Lisa Genova, author of STILL ALICE, www.StillAlice.com