Alzheimer's · elderly · family


Lest you think I am picking on my mother later in the post, let me start by listing for you just a few of the things on my desk right now that I can see with moving anything.

  • a pack of gum
  • a golf ball
  • headphones
  • a highlighter pen
  • two pairs of scissors
  • “Amistad” DVD
  • a Webkinz code
  • a Staples easy-rebate receipt
  • my cup of coffee
  • a letter Mary wrote to her Compassion child
  • Christmas labels
  • an empty CD case
  • an SD card
  • a silk Gerber daisy
  • folders filled with papers
  • two 3-ring binders
  • my laptop
  • much, much more!

Why should I ever buy an “I Spy” book or an “I Spy” game when I have a desk that looks like this?  Can you find all the things I listed?

Yesterday, when I was at my parents’ house, I went in the laundry room to see if anything needed to be washed.  The bin above the washer caught my eye.  Usually, this was where cleaning rags were kept, but lately other things have been showing up there.  The kitchen towels, which used to be kept in a drawer, are almost always in this bin these days.  But yesterday, there was even more.

I started taking things out, just to see what all was there.  Here is what I found:

  • rags (expected)
  • bags – plastic bags from the grocery store and used zip-loc bags (sort of expected, but I have to ask, does anybody else’s mother wash zip-loc bags?  Mine has for years.)
  • several ShamWows (purchased at the state fair after my parents were wowed by that demonstration.  Have they ever used them?  I don’t know…)
  • dish towels (expected these days)
  • paper placemats (spilled upon in several places, but once quite pretty.  I threw them away.)
  • styrofoam cups (Where did these come from?  Why are they here?)
  • a pretty bowl (This does not belong to my parents.  Somebody brought them food in it.  Usually it is sitting on the counter with the rest of the dishes that don’t belong to them.)
  • Bounce fabric softener sheets (sort of expected.  At least it’s in the laundry room.)
  • loose kleenex (these are everywhere in the house.  Fortunately, they did not go into the washer or dryer.  From my experience, kleenex does not wash well.)
  • a stretched out glove (this would not fit anybody that I know.  I threw it away.)
  • pieces of a broken plate in a plastic bowl (less than half of a stoneware plate, so I threw it away.  Even if we had the whole plate, would we have glued it back together?  I don’t think so.)

As I was taking all these things out and shaking my head over them, I thought about my desk at home.  Any sane, normal person could start pulling things off my desk and saying, “Where did this come from?  Why is this here?”

I think the difference is — and this is an important distinction for those of us who wonder if the same thing is happening to us — that this is a fairly new behavior for my mother. When I was in 3rd grade my desk was such a disaster that my teacher, Miss Bliss, dumped it out in the middle of class to my horror and embarrassment.  It made an impression on me, but it didn’t fix the problem.  My desk in college was cluttered, and my desks in my homes have been cluttered.

And the really weird thing is, I usually know where things are.  I know right where to find a paper clip on my desk because I watched the box spill.  I just haven’t picked them all up yet.  I know there is a check I have to give Bud to sign.  It’s in the pile to my left, either underneath or on top of the two library books that don’t have to be returned for two weeks.

My mother has always washed and saved zip-loc bags.  That doesn’t worry me.  It’s the fact that she no longer puts them in the same place. It’s this new disorganization that concerns me and reminds me that she is no longer in full possession of her faculties.  If the person who owns that pretty little blue bowl ever shows up looking for it, I wouldn’t know where to start looking.  In the workshop?  In the bathroom?

My mother no longer understands where things go.  It makes life hard for my father.

Maybe if I get Alzheimer’s, I’ll get neater.  My desk will be organized. My husband and children will scratch their heads in wonder because it will look tidy.  But I won’t know where anything is.

4 thoughts on “Disorganization

  1. Luckily, you have retained your sense of humor while dealing with this difficult disease. My daughter has been struggling with Lyme Disease for over two years of treatment now, and I seem to have lost my sense of humor. God and I had a long talk about that, and other things this morning. I have found not only my humor but peace and joy. Rejoice because He knows all that we struggle with and He is with us through it all.

    1. Oh, Marcia, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I laugh to keep from crying.

      We’re doing Beth Moore’s “Living Beyond Yourself” Bible study and I just reviewed the chapter on patience. She talks our relationships as sandpaper and that as we interact with each other that difficult thing we are working through is actually smoothing us out. I think this illness is a rough grit sandpaper, but God is using it to do a work in me. It hurts a lot, but I laugh to keep from crying.

  2. I’ve been looking for that glove!
    Seriously, tho…
    (1) I think the bowl is Diana’s.
    (2) I can’t believe Miss Bliss did that to you.
    (3) I wish I could take a picture of my desk for you.
    (4) Trust me, your family would rather have the “messy” you back.

  3. I had NO idea we were so much alike! I, too, am a piler. recently, someone moved me from one office to another at work – without me there, I might add. I still can’t find my things!! It’s an odd sort of thing…clutter. It’s organized chaos, and no one understands the system but me.

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