Being today is the last Friday in June, also the last Friday of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I knew I wanted to write about something but I didn’t know what that “something” was going to be. A trip to the grocery store today gave me my inspiration.
For those of you who may not know, I now live alone in an apartment. Although I still have a drivers license, I don’t have a vehicle for I can’t afford one (insurance, gas, maintenance, etc) so I found an apartment complex that is within walking distance to everything I need.
When I got up this morning, my intention was to head to Winn Dixie for I needed a few things, however, my brain had other plans and the fog rolled in. (For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you may want to see one of my earlier blog posts Fog, It’s Not Just a Weather Condition.)
When in a “Foggy State” not only is my brain not operating at full capacity but my balance is a bit off. The last thing I wanted to happen is to fall either while walking to or from the grocery, so, I remained inside.
I busied myself with other things, completely forgetting I needed to go to the grocery. Opening the refrigerator to fix lunch, I suddenly realized, I was supposed to go to the grocery. Forgetting things like this used to make me angry but now, they make me laugh at myself. It took me several years to realize it was no one’s fault other than my own when I forget things. Then after a couple of additional years, it wasn’t my fault, it was Alzheimer’s’ fault! (I’ve always been a slow learner).
I started getting ready, making sure I had my wallet, my phone, and my backpack and off I went. The walk is only about a 1/2 mile each way so I get my exercise in while getting my errands done. Another thing I’ve learned it’s easier to use a backpack to carry my groceries than it is to carry the plastic bags that can easily burst or rip. (I learned that the hard way.)
With my shopping done, I packed my backpack but couldn’t fit everything so I had to carry 2 grocery bags. I made my way across the parking lot and was about to make my way to the sidewalk when I car came up behind me.
From what I could see, there were 3 teenagers in the car. There may have been 1 other but I don’t really know or care. The driver and the kid seated directly behind him started shouting obscenities at me. I didn’t understand what I had done. It wasn’t like I crossed in front of them for they had come up behind me. I just couldn’t understand what was happening.
Then I heard the words, “you homeless f***er!” “Get a job you piece of s**t!” “Go beg somewhere else you blah, blah, blah!” They just kept on screaming, cursing, yelling and laughing at me. I then realized I was approaching an area where there are people usually using that spot, holding signs asking for food and or money. Many of them have backpacks and an assortment of bags with them. I guess they thought I was making my way to that spot to ask for food and/or money.
I didn’t know how to feel. I was being verbally assaulted because I was mistaken for someone who, they thought, was below them, someone who didn’t fit their description of an upstanding member of society, someone who, in their words, “you f***ing BUM!”
I started walking again and they continued cursing and yelling but the traffic started to drown them out. They made their way out of the parking lot and made a point to slow down as they passed me on the street to continue shouting at me. I just ignored them and made my way home.
Once I got home, I unpacked my bags and backpack and then I got angry. I wasn’t angry at those little punks who probably thought they got to me and made me feel bad. I was angry at something else. I was angry at my Alzheimer’s.
If I didn’t have Alzheimer’s Disease, I’d still be working, making A LOT more money than my monthly Social Security Disability.
I’d still be driving, able to get where I needed/wanted to go, rain or shine.
I’d probably still have my network of friends to interact with.
Thinking of these things, I was getting angrier and angrier . . . really pissed off!
Then a notification went off on my phone. It was from someone on Facebook. I didn’t know this person but they were thanking me for opening up about my Alzheimer’s Life. They had read a few of my blog posts as well as my Facebook posts and they thanked me for helping them better understand their Mother, who is currently living with Alzheimer’s.
As fast as the anger came upon me, calmness replaced it. The words, my own words, the words I now say at the end of my presentation came flowing into my brain with such clarity . . . (I still had to get a copy of my presentation to make sure I had the exact verbiage)
“Regardless of whether you have an illness, regardless of your gender, regardless of your race, the way you are perceived by others, although it may be hard to take at times, it’s not something you need to concern yourself with. Look at it as a learning experience you can use later in life and a teaching experience you can use today.
For those who use words or actions against you, it’s because they don’t understand. You know who you are. You know your abilities.
Everything you’ve been through in your life . . . every success, every failure, prepares you for what lies ahead.
It’s why I’m not embarrassed to stand before you or anyone for that matter and say, “I HAVE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE!” I don’t do it as a way of looking for pity and sympathy, I do it as a way of saying, “HEY! Look at me. I’m only 57 years old, I look somewhat normal but I have this disease.”
It starts a conversation. It’s my way of advocating, spreading the word, making aware, or whatever you want to call it. It is now my life mission!”
Everything in life happens for a reason. We may not understand the why’s but accepting things makes it more manageable.
Until next time,