My confusion when trying to perform multi-step tasks continues. It seems a bit worse than it used to be and certainly more frequent.
My granddaughter Madeline was mildly ill Friday, so we canceled our plans for an excursion into San Francisco and she, her brother, and I spent much of the day inside playing board games, one of which was Yahtzee, which was new to me. If you know poker, however, the rules are not complicated. One of them involved the conditions under which you could roll the die additional times during your turn, and the kids tried to explain it to me. After a while, it became clear that I wasn’t getting it. Madeline, nine years old, looked at me brightly and said, “That’s okay, grandpa, we can explain them to you as we go along.”
Madeline had noticed my inability and frustration but showed no hint of surprise, condescension 0r impatience. She just decided to comfort me: “That’s okay, grandpa.” We proceeded with the game and, indeed, we had no problems.
A similar difficulty occurred in a cooperative game Laurel, her husband, the kids and I were playing yesterday. Each player gets four “actions” in each turn, but the other players can help figure out which actions should be taken. Needless to say, everyone contributes their ideas one on top of each other, but a consensus usually arises quickly. I’d played the game with them before and knew the rules. Nevertheless, I just couldn’t follow the discussions. Once we got beyond the first or second action, I couldn’t keep them all in my head simultaneously, nor could I figure out how one suggestion was better than another in helping us win the game. It was like trying to follow scientists discussing a new and complicated theory; I was in over my head. But this was a conversation the children easily understood about a family game. I could only sit and watch, a new experience for me.
Trying to make simple calculations in my head has gotten difficult, too. How many tablespoons are in a cup? There are three steps:
- I know that there are 15 milliliters [ml] in a tablespoon and 240 ml in a cup.
- I don’t know without a pencil and paper how many times 15 goes into 240, but I do know that 30 (twice 15) goes into 240 8 times.
- Multiply 8 by 2 to get back to tablespoons and you get 16 of them.
The impairment is annoying, but, fortunately, I don’t feel embarrassed or get angry with myself. Although I don’t have Alzheimer’s, I know that the chances of my cognitive decline worsening are high (see here). If I don’t dwell on how much I’ve lost compared to my past and if I don’t dwell on what’s coming in the future, things are just fine.
Most religions seem to recognize the same truth, for instance,
Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
I’ve always known this intellectually, but my intellectual impairment seems to have inscribed it in my heart, too.
It’s a wonderful gift.