The patio moment didn’t last long. I’m grateful. Those sixty to two hundred seconds were petrifying.
Part of me wants to tuck this darkness down, hide it from worried eyes, prying minds. When I told Steven about it last night, I finished with, “Don’t tell anyone.”
This moment right here, the telling someone, must be a cousin to the moment an addict experiences, speaking that dark truth, exposing the disease. The telling is also petrifying.
Scientists blame calcification.
Emotionally, it’s hard, a petrification.
I have many soft emotions around patios, my patio, where I’ve created a sacred space for writing morning pages, meditating, reading; my friend’s patio, where we’ve made space for our laughter, joy, dreams, tears, and anger.
My friend’s patio is also her sacred space. Although my patio isn’t as nice or big as hers, she often commented when we would sit on my patio about how much she wished her patio were covered like mine. This year, she installed a roof over her patio so she can enjoy it rain or shine. I was standing in her yard, admiring it, remembering how she used to express her longing for this roof whenever we sat under my patio cover.
I closed my eyes, turned away from my friend and Steven, who were untangling solar lights.
My patio! What does my patio look like?
I know it has a roof, a covering.
I could not conjure the image of my patio.
I walked away, eyes squeezed tight now, connect the dots connect the dots.
I couldn’t find it. Not yet.
I just need one small dot and then one more.
I’m not sure I was breathing.
My first dot was the dead DeLorean parked in our driveway.
Dot, dot, dot…
Walking through the front door, the TV room, the dining room.
Is this the beginning?
Maybe this was just an empathetic moment, I’m so close to mom’s battle.
But what if it’s the first of many moments, when the dots are harder and harder to connect?
I sat under my friend’s patio, doubling over in the chair.
I looked up the stages of Alzheimer’s. This would be a pre-stage 1. Stage .25?
One of the beautiful gifts mom has given us on her journey is her openness. She didn’t tuck her darkness down, hiding it. As I’ve watched her battle this bull, that openness is one of her weapons against it.
I see you!
Every time she can respond to the bull’s attacks with that recognition, that I see you, she smites it. Just a bit.
Did I get a first glimpse of that bull yesterday, when I couldn’t see my own patio?
I pray it’s an anomaly, a mind crowded with too many to-dos, a little stress, and relational tension.
But what if it’s the first spec of calcification on my hippocampus?
Even as I told Steven don’t tell anyone, I thought of mom. I have this problem. Her sometimes uncomfortable frankness about the disease that has slowly sucked the life out of her.
Since when? When did it start for her?
Fight in the Light
We’ll never know. Maybe she was also in her 60s when it started. The disease showed up for my grandmothers when they were in their 60s.
I hope this is my one and only patio moment, but what if it’s not? Taking the secrets of a disease to the grave serves no one, not even the victim.
There is a shared despair around Alzheimer’s. My dad feels the despair as he watches the beast take mom, one bite at a time. I feel my own despair when I visit them. Over the last four years, I’ve touched the edges of the despair mom must feel, but in that patio moment, I felt it. Her despair as she scrambles for the dots to get back home, as I squeezed my eyes to find my patio.
It’s petrifying to imagine what could be happening under my skull, but calcification doesn’t pause in the darkness. This might simply be a brain fart, the passing of a mental stone, but if this is the beginning of a battle, I’ll stand in the sun and fight it in the light.
May 29, 2021, 5:30 pm. I could not remember my patio.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2021
“Fight it in the light”. Brilliant, Pennie!
I totally feel your pain.
My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the tender age of 60. Any time I feel a tremble or have a ‘brain fart’, I immediately make the leap. And it isn’t pleasant.
I was delivering newspapers some years ago and walked out from one house and, in the dark, turned the wrong direction.
My mind went blank. Completely blank. For a couple of heart-rending moments, I was totally lost. I stopped and looked around. Then memory flooded in again. But for those few seconds, I was more frightened than I’ve ever been.
I do understand your patio moment. The best thing we can do is to keep on writing! Keep on sharing!
I’m glad you shared your moment with us. Many of us have had this experience, and it helps to know we’re not alone. You and your mom are so lucky to be able to learn from each other.
Dearest Pennie, Your writing in this post pierced my heart, with its message, rhythms, language, and emotion. I admire your bravery and thank you for this experience. I send love.