I Surrendered

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A few months ago, I went to renew my drivers license. The renewal date wasn’t until September but Maureen was renewing hers so I figured I would renew mine while we were there.

As we were sitting there answering questions the clerk was asking, she asked me the following question … “Do you have any type of mental illness that may prevent you from driving a vehicle safely?” I knew I had to answer the question honestly, even though I did not want to for I knew what the consequences would be.

I told the clerk, “well, I have Alzheimer’s Disease and I’m not really sure if my reaction time would be like it was.”

She apologized and told me that she could not renew my drivers license without having me tested to see if I could pass the driving test. I knew if I got behind the wheel of a car, my reaction time was not going to be enough to pass the driving test. She said she would leave it open in case I wanted to get tested but she would have to flag my license.

Maureen and I had several discussions, weighing the pros and cons of getting tested. What ended up being the straw that broke the camels back was this. Maureen told me she had noticed the my Executive Functions (making decisions, diminished by my Vascular Dementia) had gone down hill. She gave me examples of conversations we had, some I remembered but the majority of the conversations I didn’t remember.

With my inability to make snap decisions, we came to the conclusion that renewing my license was not going to happen. I understood that, but it was a sad, sad time.

Yesterday, July 21st, I went back to get an ID. Once the process was over, I was no longer a licensed driver. It hit me hard once we got back into the car. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I lost it. I had a drivers license since I was 17 or 18 years old. Now turning 60 years old in a little over a month and a half, I no longer have a drivers license.

It was so very hard to take although I knew what I was going in there for. I went in as a licensed driver and came out with a Florida ID. It still hit me very very hard. I felt like my Dementia once again took something away from me that I treasured, something that was mine.

I remembered a story my brother Wayne told us. He took my Dad’s car keys away for he was no longer able to drive safely. My Dad forgot a lot of things due to his Vascular Dementia but one day he and Wayne were having a conversation and my Dad was just staring at Wayne. He then said, “I know you! You’re the SOB that took my car keys!” or something along those lines.

It’s funny (not Ha Ha funny) how memories will come back to me at the strangest times. It’s usually not the big memories, but the smaller, memories.

I hate what Alzheimer’s has already taken from me. I have always said from the beginning that I was not going to allow Alzheimer’s to define who I am. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that so far. Today was a big test. Over the past 6 years, I don’t know if it was Alzheimer’s or Vascular Dementia that took away some things that I treasured and things I had taken for granted for so many years.

Now, those things (friendships, memories, dreams) are gone. I haven’t driven a car or any other type of vehicle since I’ve been here in Largo. I knew that I should not be behind the wheel of a car but I still had my that little piece of plastic that said I still had the ability or I should say, the right, to drive a vehicle.

That is no more and I need to let it go.

Maureen said “the ability to drive is not the measure of a man. The true measure of a man is his care and concern about his fellow man. And you have shown yourself to be a giant by considering the safety of others in this decision. THANK You!”

She then said, “you know what is such a comfort to me? having you in the car with me. You’re my second set of eyes, my second set of ears. You keep me safe!”

So I guess now, I am a co-pilot!

Until Next Time . . .

PEACE!

B

The Journey is Not Always as it Seems!

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,
PEACE!
B