On the bus to Boston
I was sitting in daughter Karin and her husband Gabriel’s kitchen last night on my way to visit my sister Lois. Gabriel filled a Sippy-Cup for their 2½-year-old Jai. On his way to Jai’s chair, he passed by me and, by mistake, put the cup down before me. He realized his mistake and picked the cup back up almost immediately and said something like, “That’s not for you.” “Not yet,” I said; “I’m not that far gone, yet.” I’m not sure that Gabriel got the joke (although I think he did), but I wonder if he felt constrained not to treat something “so serious” as humorous.
Little events like that, certainly no one’s “fault,” make me wonder whether others are even interested in dwelling on my Alzheimer’s. I’m interested in those experiences, of courses, but is my listener? I asked Karin to stop me from talking about my disease when it got to be more than she wanted. I doubt she will; I doubt very few people will be able to stop me even if I request it explicitly. Another potential for isolation.
Again, I notice how it’s my fantasies about the future that are painful, not the present.
I called Lois to ask directions to where we would meet in Boston. She was giving me detailed but ultimately uncomplicated instructions. Nevertheless, I couldn’t keep them in my head. I think the internal problem was that once I was concentrating on the second part of the description, I couldn’t remember the first part and make the visual connection. I’m going to have to write more and more down.
“Only the person who loses his life will find it.” It’s a Christian version of the Buddhist idea of non-self. I will have to lose my attachment to images of myself if I’m to be truly alive during this period of illness. One way of looking at non-attachment is a willingness to give away my desires and put in place the laws and disciplines of YHWH. (I wish I knew for sure what that meant!) Only the willingness to detach myself from my image will allow me to be led through the Spirit into responding to exactly what is in front of me.
In an important way, then, the Alzheimer’s is a teacher about detachment, about losing self. If I try to keep my life, I will constantly be trying to be who I was. All those things—intelligence, competence, prophetic vision—will gradually go. Exactly what will replace them is not clear. So far, what I’ve gained is greater than what I’ve lost, so I can’t really complain yet about having to give up things.