While cleaning out my mother’s house a while back, I found many things.
Among them was a letter, flawlessly typed in duplicate and filed alongside flawlessly typed birthday party menus, love letters, diet tips, Barry Manilow song lyrics, prayer intentions and miscellaneous correspondence.
Addressed to a major vacuum sweeper manufacturer, the letter pertained to a product she purchased for a son moving to his first apartment. Not to brag, but my mother was a sweeper expert. During her prime, she vacuumed three times a day.
This particular machine had not met her standards. She was returning it, she wrote, due to the excessive noise it made and her fear that its regular use might provoke complaints to the landlord. Politely, but firmly, she scolded the manufacturer for marketing an apartment-size sweeper that would mark her son a nuisance and threaten good neighbor relations.
One can only imagine the number of vacuum-related complaints the nation’s landlords receive each week. My mother did not want to be responsible for even one of them.
My point is, this was BEFORE she had Alzheimer’s. But she’d have said the same thing AFTER her diagnosis. Some things about a person don’t change.
I mention Alzheimer’s because so much of what you hear about it is awful. And it is. But if I can be honest with you for a minute, it’s not always so bad. People who have it are often capable of more than you think.
For example, if you ask a group with Alzheimer’s to put their hands over their hearts and say the Pledge of Allegiance, they will do it. They will join you in “You Are My Sunshine” and other smile-inducing songs you might not otherwise think to sing. Plus, if one can’t come up with an animal when it’s their turn on “Old McDonald,” never fear. It is perfectly acceptable to choose “DUCK” five times in a row. In fact, I highly recommend it.
Some people with Alzheimer’s are excellent at math and spelling. I have a 95-year-old friend named Betty who isn’t sure where her room is, but can tell you how many cookies are in six dozen without skipping a beat. Carol can’t spell, but she will sneak an extra cookie if you turn your head. Which is why you should always turn your head.
People with Alzheimer’s listen attentively if you talk to them about current events. Announce it’s time for “High Crimes and Misdemeanors Corner” with sufficient enthusiasm and they will laugh out loud. Yes, spending time with people with Alzheimer’s can be very cathartic.
Also, they never run their sweepers at bedtime. They make the best neighbors.
So If you know someone who has Alzheimer’s, which is pretty much everyone, don’t be afraid. And don’t stay away. You may miss the best part.