This blog is meant to advertise my mem-novel, Last Trip Home, to be published May 15, 2018, by She Writes Press. I do want people to buy my book to replenish what I’ve spent on publishing it, but I don’t really want people I know to read it. Also, since I couldn’t sell my ass to a horny sailor if I were 30 years younger, I have serious doubts about my selling the book (or my ass) here. I am more likely to repel readers than to attract them. Even so, as I get closer to my 77th birthday, I am determined to write about what interests me—aging and whining about aging—no politics or intellectual stuff. The following about my long-held fear of getting Alzheimer’s disease is a sample of what to expect. Warning: five variations of the word “fuck.”
On June 21, my neurologist gave me several verbal tests to see if I have Alzheimer’s. I passed. For now. Maybe. I have to return in a year. He mentioned an MRI but changed his mind. He said I did better than I did four years ago but gave the same disclaimer—that he would expect me to score higher considering my advanced level of education.
He asked me at the beginning of the appointment if I thought I had Alzheimer’s, and I gave him my usual bullshit line—that I started out smarter than Ken, my Insignificant Other, and our friends so I was just down to average now. He gave a sympathetic look to Ken, who sat beside me wearing his long-suffering face. The doctor said I didn’t seem to have any trouble talking.
On the tests, I could spell “world” backwards but had trouble remembering enough words that start with F. I immediately said the obvious ones—“fuck, fucked, fucking, and fuckable”—but Dr. Fucker gave me only one point for all four words. I kept being distracted by words like “phony” and “phonetics” that start with “ph” but sound like F. I wish I had given him my favorite boast to impress people—that I can conjugate the verb “to fuck” in nine different tenses, in active and passive voices, to agree with first, second, and third points of view, both singular and plural. Instead, I floundered.
But I drew a clock quickly for him, putting the numbers in the right places. I froze for a minute when he said, “Now make the time 3:40”; then I drew the short hour-hand to 3 and the long minute-hand to 8.
To be completely honest, I knew the clock-drawing test was coming so I prepared mentally for it. The last time I was asked to draw a clock, I drew an old-fashioned wooden frame a clock might sit in, but included no numbers. Was I smart to prepare? Or did I sabotage myself if I really have Alzheimer’s and need to take the medication to slow it down?
The test I totally flunked four years ago was the numbers. When asked to count backwards from 100 by 7s, I got 93, then 86, and had to give up. The night before the appointment, I was worrying out loud about that test to Ken and his 9-year-old granddaughter. She said, “I can give you a tip I learned in the first grade.” The clever little booger showed me how to take the first number when subtracted by 7 (93), then subtract it by 10 (83), then add 3, which is the difference between 10 and 7, getting 86, then keep going.
I took sticky notes and, using her process, counted backwards from 100 by 7s, 8s, 9s, and 5s. I still doubt that I can use the process orally, but I took the cheat sheets with me to peek at. Dr. Fucker didn’t ask me to count backwards. He asked me to repeat backwards increasingly longer strings of numbers. I did respectably well. I showed him my sticky notes cheat sheets, and he seemed impressed.
I totally killed on the three words he gave me at the beginning—baseball, cabbage, purple—and asked me to repeat at the end of the appointment. I thought about how much I hate watching boring baseball and imagined a batter hitting a purple cabbage that exploded all over the field.
But, again, am I smart to use strategies or dumb for not getting the treatment that might slow down the aluminum doohickeys twisting in and filling my brain?
Also, I can’t play the Alzheimer’s card any more when I forget people’s names. I can’t cheat at tennis by pretending I don’t know the score.
I almost cried from relief when the doctor said I didn’t have it. Maybe I won’t end up like Mama—paralyzed and speechless in a hospital bed in the Side Room of the sharecropper shack, with an angry man like Daddy impatiently caring for her. Which will be better (1) me taking care of my man with Parkinson’s or (2) my man with Parkinson’s taking care of me with Alzheimer’s? The Parkinson’s is definite. So it will be #1 by default. Maybe.