She stopped making brownies.

What have we lost?

OK, let’s take an inventory.

Sure.

Helps us know where we are.

I get it.

So, tell us.

Fine. Um. Started, maybe three years ago. It’s hard to know. She was so anxious, anticipating its arrival, it’s hard to know when it arrived. What part of it was imaginary? What part of it was actually it?

Yes, but, inventory. What have we lost?

Are you kidding? Memory, of course.

I know. We all know that. But how did it come apart.

Oh, the pieces of it. None of us thought to take notes. But something like, well, first, confidence. I think that was first to go.

OK. 1. Confidence.

Yeah, and I know we’re lucky, because in some cases, they don’t lose the confidence. They think it’s everyone else.

You’re correct. You’re lucky. Then what?

Just about everything else starting fracturing, chipping away. Once you lose your confidence, you don’t trust yourself with anything.

But what did it look like.

Small things. Like recipes. She couldn’t remember if she’d already added that cup of flour or sugar. But she knew she wasn’t sure. She knew she needed help and she asked.

You’re very lucky.

We know! So I would come over and help her, walk through the recipe. Even though she couldn’t trust herself, it was amazing. Sometimes she’d remember those little tricks that aren’t part of the recipe. Make sure you… and After you finish…, you have to…

OK. So, 1. confidence, which meant you had to help more. Then what.

Like I said, we weren’t taking notes. It gets jumbled in my mind. She started losing things. I noticed she puts things away in odd places.

So, keeping up with personal belongings.

They weren’t always personal. Dishes. Pans. Corn cutters.

We’ll just call it organization. 2. Organization. What went next? You said she was doing puzzles. Did she stop doing puzzles?

Not at all. But they’re not really puzzles. She likes word scans. She works on her word scans, even today, desperately. I think she thinks they will save her. Lift the fog. I know they help, but I don’t think they’ll do what she wants.

That’s good. So she still engages. She still knows?

Definitely.

You’re…

I know. We’re lucky.

She stopped making brownies.

Can you remember what went next?

Hard to remember exactly. Her voice, maybe. Her words.

Not sure I understand.

It’s like her voice is out of practice. Gravel collects in her throat. Her words fall over the uneven path, losing their way. She’ll start a story or a thought, then cough because gravel, then the words are gone. Sometimes I know where she is going and can fill in the blank. A simple word or name —rug, Steven, doctor, tractor— might put her back on track. Lately, though, she gives up.

So 3. Language. She’s struggling to put complete sentences together.

Yes! She starts then loses the thread. Sometimes I can help, but more and more, there’s just not enough information.

She’s still driving?

No. That was easy. Her driving was still fine, but the doctor explained that she could be sued, even if it wasn’t her fault. That was enough.

So, 4. Driving. You’re lucky about how that went down.

We know.

What about cooking?

Measuring

Complex cooking, number 5? She still warms things up. But she doesn’t cook dumplings, butter beans, or corn. Laundry is questionable. Number 6. The floors… Listen to me. All the domestic things! We’re measuring her progress in domestics!

It’s just a way of measuring.

This is the saddest conversation.

I know.

No you don’t. You’re hitting the domestics. All the wifely things that are falling away. Did you know she was a PE teacher? She used to have a routine. Sit ups, push-ups, stretches, weights. Every morning. We should have noticed when that stopped.

You’re right. That’s important. So 7. Exercise.

I don’t know if that was 7 or 2 or 10! It’s gone. My point is… I don’t know what my point is. When was the last time she balanced the checkbook? That’s significant. When was the last time she refinished a piece of furniture on her own? Made a 24-hour drive to visit her son? Everyone asks the last time she did a load of laundry, but she was more than a housewife!

I understand she still mows.

She does. She’s wrecking the mower but she does. She feels useful, and we don’t want to take that from her. I’m sorry. Sorry I snapped at you.

No worries. Understandable. Back to inventory…

I wonder when she dribbled her last basketball, won her last ping pong game. She played tennis! Coached. Helped me teach swimming lessons. Even babies. I can’t remember the last time she got in the pool.

She was an athlete, I see.

Yes. Before when I snapped, I said “we’re measuring her progress” but that’s not true, is it? It’s the progress of the disease. We measure her diminishing, opposite of progress.

Yes. We’re just taking inventory.

Of her losses. Well, here’s one. Brownies!

Sorry?

She stopped making brownies.

She used to make them for church. And this isn’t about housewivery. It was her contribution. The kids asked for them. That was her thing. That made her somebody. A point of pride that they loved the brownies. She’d always explain to anyone who asked, “Duncan Hines, dark fudge brownies.” Boxed brownies! Easy! She made them for years until a couple of… , lord knows, maybe as many as six weeks ago. Maybe three months. She stopped looking for the boxes on the shelves. Stopped making them.

So, number 8? I think we’re at 8. Brownies.

She stopped making brownies.

I’m so sorry.

©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020