This short story is a brief insight into the mind of an Alzheimer’s patient. His thoughts and his confusion. Surrounded by a family who cared for him, the story also tries to capture the experiences of his main carer.
I looked at my wife Molly, and I wished desperately that I could take away this burden from her. She had been so understanding about it all. Just like she had been all our years together. We met at the University of Leeds when I was 29 years old and studying for a Master’s degree; she was 26 and a third-year student in Music Production and Performance. It was a fast-paced romance. We dated for a few months, and suddenly Molly was pregnant for Jenny. After Jenny was born, we decided to wait a few years before having another child, we wanted to enjoy being newlyweds. This bliss was easy to accomplish with Jenny being such a lovely baby, she slept a lot and didn’t cry much.
By our fourth year together, we’d had two more kids; Lucy and Kenneth. Molly was now a stay at home mom and teaching music occasionally at the local community centre on Saturdays. I was working crazy long and odd hours. Managing a building and construction business was no easy feat. There were times when I didn’t make it home for birthdays and important family gatherings. But Molly, was gracious and understanding- always setting things right.
“Mr. Jensen?” Doctor Lindsay called out to me.
Molly placed her palm on my arm. Her gentle touch brought me out of my reverie.
“I’m sorry, I drifted,” I replied apologetically.
“That’s perfectly ok Mr. Jensen. I was saying that the diagnostic uncertainty of Alzheimer’s can be ruled out by the tests we took you through in 2006. Those tests helped us rule out other conditions that share dementia-like symptoms.” She paused and continued;
“Currently we are simply re-evaluating your progress.” She stopped talking to go through some notes on her computer.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” She said as she stood up and left the room.
I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three months ago – or was it last year? Well, I remember it was just one week after I had turned 66. It all started when my business took a backlashing from some bad decisions I had made. My accountant and lawyer; long-time friends of ours. Held an intervention one Sunday morning and I was asked to get help. I didn’t pay much attention to the staged intervention. Instead, I hired a young and vibrant finance manager to head my financial department. I assumed my bad business decisions were due to normal signs of aging. I would quickly change my mind when I woke up one morning and could not remember who or where I was. Molly and I talked about it for a few more days, before I decided to see the local physician at the Roundhay Park Surgery. After the consultation, I was referred to see Doctor Barash, who was a Neurodegenerative Disease Specialist at the St. James Hospital in Leeds. Since then, it has been a downward spiral.
I forget the most outrageous things, like the name of the company I spent decades building up. Sometimes it also takes a bit of an effort to remember the names of my children. But through it all I never forget my lovely Molly. I glanced at her, and she looked just as youthful as when we first met. At this moment I swore to fight this disease, I made a mental note to try harder to be the man she met and fell in love with. I will go into any available clinical trials that might help slow the illness.
“But beat it, I will…” Andrew said this out loud and noticed Molly looking at him with her kind, gentle eyes.
“Did you say something daddy?” she asked;
Andrew became disoriented; he was sure Molly was the one sitting right next to him. But hearing her call him daddy caused time to disintegrate, and he was staring at his little girl Jenny. She looked just like her mother and so much older. She looked old like she was in her 40’s, but that wasn’t possible because it was only three months ago (or was it not?) that they had broken the news to the kids that he had Alzheimer’s.
He remembered that day as if it was just yesterday. Molly had set up a Skype meeting and the kids joined in the video conference call. He remembered how doleful-eyed Lucy and Kenneth looked when He broke the news to them. Jenny did not look surprised, she was a student nurse at the time and had been the one haranguing Andrew for years about his forgetfulness and how he needed to see a doctor.
I was brought back once more to the present when the door slid open, and Doctor Lindsay walked back in. She had an open file in her hands, and she spoke without looking up or making eye contact.
“Unfortunately, my diagnosis is the same as Doctor Barash’s. You are now at an advanced stage, and I would like to refer you to our resident counsellor. He will guide you through some lifestyle changes. These changes are optional and are only to support you…” She prattled on
I couldn’t help but think that she needed to take a crash course on ‘giving bad news.’ She paused in between sentences waiting for a response from Molly (or was it Jenny) She was expecting a barrage of questions that would usually follow this diagnosis. But we were both tired, we had already asked all the questions, and Doctor Barash had been kind enough to provide all the information and support we needed to get us through the initial shock.
We saw the resident counsellor right after Doctor Lindsay said her goodbyes. He smiled a lot and tossed a lot of jokes my way that went right over my head. I listened attentively and nodded to show that I wasn’t a piece of office furniture. Truth be told, I just wanted to go home. I wanted my mommy.