As I go around my days, I am usually careful when I sense that I might be moving into unfamiliar places. In Somerville, where I have lived for decades, it would be difficult for me to get lost. Not long after my diagnosis, I started doing a very simple 30-minute walk. I start from my home and walk in a rectangle until I am back on my street.
There are other walks, embedded in my long-term memory. One is more challenging. There is a sky bridge, over Route 28, which connects east Somerville with the rest of the city. I hadn’t done it recently. It takes me into Boston. But the path ends at that point. Another route takes me past Tufts University, where Paula studied in the graduate English program. I don’t have to think about where I am.
It’s a good 70-minute walk, overall, comparable to the route of The Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraiser. Foolishly, last September, I did the Walk, despite having a deformed sole on my right shoe. It was months before I could walk normally without pain. Another route of mine follows Massachusetts Avenue, which is my umbilical cord. Sometimes I need to relieve myself. And let’s just say that my prostate gland is not what it used to be. In 2o16, at the end of a vacation in Puget Sound, my cousin’s husband had cooked up a vat of steel-cut oats. I love steel-cut oats. They are very nourishing, and I aim to cook them once a week. But I have to be careful. Like my dad, I struggle with my prostate gland. I know from experience that it can be serious. But that morning, I didn’t take into account the Seattle-area traffic. If I was on a bus, the bus would have had a toilet. But I was riding in a van. One woman on the van offered me an empty plastic bottle to collect my urine.
There probably would have been a toilet along the route. But the van lacked that service. We were on Interstate 5, heading toward the airport. Remember those O.J. Simpson commercials running through airports? That’s what I was doing in that early-morning dash to find the first restroom. My goal: don’t wet myself. Goal fulfilled.
What about cooking? Over the last week I was alone in our house for a few days, while Paula and our daughter were away. I had dinner with friends every evening, and the first few days, I made canned sockeye salmon sandwiches for lunch. Canned salmon can be fairly costly. The dressing I make is from scratch: olive oil and a smaller volume of balsamic vinegar. And there was an incident, but nothing came out of it. I was eating my five-minute oatmeal at the time. I received a landline phone call. It turned out to be from Paula. In any case, this incident was barely worth reporting. The electric burner was cherry-hot, but that was no great concern. I removed the pan from the burner and shut it off.
What about going though security at airports or government buildings? I still yearn for my tan leather jacket, which I lost in 2o15, not long before my diagnosis, and I suggest my jacket is now the property of some airport employee. And in downtown Boston, a couple of years ago, I encountered a guard who seemed to want absolute proof that I had dementia. Who can say? Unless the person is acting in a strange manner. Only in the late nursing-stage do people with Alzheimer’s display typical symptoms: vacant stares, dizziness. And there are two activities that can be enjoyed to the terminal stage: Art and music.