What was the first indication you had that something was not right? Was it a peculiar behavior or a specific incident?
My mother always knew six ways to anywhere. And the rest stops along the way. And the quality of the bathrooms at the rest areas.
This was in the days before GPS. We used old-fashioned paper accordion-folded maps. Not that my mother needed them. It was all in her head. For longer trips, she would order AAA TripTiks, but I think were more for us than for her. We could learn the names of the roads and where the rest stops were by using them. Her mind, however, was a veritable road atlas.
That’s why when she got lost, it stuck out.
Of course there had been little signs, little things she forgot or repeated. When I do that now, I’m just sure that it’s the first sign of Alzheimer’s. I think we all have those fears.
But my mother getting lost? That was almost unheard of.
We were in Myrtle Beach — my mom and dad, my sister and her husband, and my family. We were all in Myrtle Beach at the time-share condo that my father had
been snookered into purchased.
The area was very familiar because we had been going to the same place for a number of years. Mom decided to make a quick trip to the Post Office to mail out the postcards she had written. Helen, probably 10 or 11 at the time, went along for the ride.
I should add here, that if any of my children have inherited my mother’s internal atlas, it’s Helen. Even at that age, she knew her way around and remembered roads better than I ever will.
So off they went to the Post Office while we hung around the pool.
They were gone for a very long time.
You know how it is. At first, no one thinks anything of it. Oh,they’re gone to the Post Office.
Then, someone asks where they are. They went to the Post Office a while ago.
A little later, someone asks when exactly did they leave for the Post Office.
You start wondering, how long have they been gone?
Then the misgivings begin, and a thousand scenarios, most of them bad, start playing in your mind.
It was well over an hour, maybe a lot longer, before the car pulled back into the parking lot. Helen’s eyes were big. She pulled us aside and she said, “Grammie got lost.”
The Post Office, only about a mile away, was elusive for my mother that day. It was so unheard of.
My sister and I whispered about it. Something wasn’t right. All the other little things suddenly took on new significance. Maybe there was something more going on.
As it turns out, that something more was Alzheimer’s.