Alzheimer's diseaseCats

January 18, 2018

Signs of Life

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Even though I can barely take the news any longer, I’ve gotten into a self-perpetuating loop of being unable to look away; I keep checking the headlines. It’s trauma. It’s the kid (me) who didn’t want to leave the house because she was afraid of what might happen in her absence. It’s the cat who won’t go in the other room and chase a bug when the vacuum is on. It has to crouch in a doorway and watch. I am in a world that I don’t understand anymore. It’s hard to read the signs.

I’ve been thinking about signs. Not like signs of the End Times, though god knows they bear some watching. Signs like the one I see every time I walk by a house on the other side of the cemetery. It’s one of those Hooterville homes with disabled cars and old toilets on the parking strip. Junk everywhere. They run a yard sale all summer long, trying to get rid of their greasy stuff.

They also have cats. Quite a lot of them if the sampling visible from the street is a marker. Anyway most days they put out a hand-lettered sandwich board: Honk if cats don’t move. I muse about that when I walk past. What does it mean?   Honk and the cats will then move? Honk so we’ll come out and make the cats move? Honk means the cats can’t move and we’ll come out and scrape them off the road? I don’t feel like asking.

My neighborhood branch library has a genius for unintelligible signs. For months I walked past a sign near the front door that read “Strollers block our counter.” Strollers were grouped next to the sign. The counter, i.e. the reference desk, was still a good 20 feet away.

I asked a librarian what the sign meant. It turns out that near the front door and occasionally blocked by strollers is a device that detects and counts people as they walk into the library. I asked if their sign was accomplishing their intended ends. The next time I walked into the library the sign read: “Don’t leave strollers in this area.”

Emboldened by that accomplishment, I took on the enigmatic sign in the women’s rest room: “Please use paper towels appropriately.” Full marks for politeness but what on earth were women doing with paper towels that weren’t “appropriate?” Turns out they were teenage girls and they were plastering the walls and sinks with wet paper towels undeterred by a sign about appropriateness. I commented on that at the front desk. I don’t know what happened but the sign came down and I use the women’s room at my own house.

They appreciate my helpful suggestions at my branch library.

The Four Spoons Café usually has something clever and entertaining on their marquee. The month before the 2016 election it read “Vote for Trump Nov 28.” For those a little slow on the uptake and/or to insult your intelligence, I’ll point out that the election was Nov 8. After the election the sign read “Have an unpresidented year.” I’ll second that in so far as I’m capable.

In December All Present hosted a singalong at the Alzheimer’s Café, which meets once a month at Taproot Theater’s Stage Door Café.  As we were getting assembled I noticed a poster on a table. It looked like 18 candles glowing in different colored bowls.

Up close, I saw that the candle lights were actually faces of people, many of whom I know, who were living with dementia. The colored bowls were handmade signs they held against their bodies. The title of the poster was Living with memory loss in our own words. The faces were beaming. The signs were colorful:

It is frightening.

I can’t remember.

Please be patient with us.

We’re still here.

Don’t we laugh a lot!

I now have one of those posters on my front door. The faces still glow like lit candles. My friends with dementia will never understand how much wisdom and meaning and pleasure they give to me and to this crazy world. Maybe just enough to keep us all in balance.



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