DEMENTED MINDS

I vividly recall when I was much younger being called demented. At that time demented meant I was stupid, dumb and/or ignorant. I would make a comment and one of my sisters would say, “Don’t be demented.” They knew how to make an appropriate eye roll and use a tone of voice that was sure to either make me think before speaking or stop me from speaking altogether.

Today we often hear the term used for terrorists, violent gang members, or serial murders. Watch certain Networks, reporters, or elected officials, and you will think that the word demented refers to people who are blood thirsty, evil, extremely violent, criminal geniuses. These poor demented geniuses spend day after day, hour after hour, making plans on how to kill as many people as possible with a single stroke.

It seems that many people really do not know what the word dementia means, or what the disease is. Because of this, when someone says that terrorists are demented, we all think that demented people are naturally violent.

That’s really the wrong picture to have in your mind. I personally think that people with dementia would make horrible terrorists. Do you remember Samantha’s Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne) on the television program Bewitched? Could you see poor aunt Clara joining the Witches Liberation Front and carrying out a plan to kill a bunch of people? She would whip out her wand and say, “All of you may…uh…hmm…oh dear, I’ve lost the word.” (She intended to say, “All of you may die!”)

A sudden sparkle in her eye and she would say, “I’ve got it!!” Waving her wand she would say “All of you may FLY!” When she sees people happily flying around and no one dying, she would say, “That’s not right!” and have no idea how to reverse the spell.

Before Harriet had Frontotemporal Dementia, she made our daughter’s wedding dinner which featured homemade Lasagna for four hundred people. Another time, she prepared a Swiss steak dinner for 200 guests. One big sign of her dementia was when it became too difficult for her to make a family dinner for 15 people.  Two Easters ago I read the how to cook sticker off the ham to her. It said, “bake in a 325-degree oven for 15 minutes a pound.” I asked her, “the ham weights eight pounds.  At fifteen minutes a pound how long will I need to bake it?” The blank look on her face said it all. She didn’t know how to figure out the question. She cannot bake a ham; how would she make a bomb?

Dementia is a disease that slowly destroys a person’s brain. It is the unmaking of a human.

Everything you have ever learned; erased.

The people you deeply love; strangers.

Those wonderful memories that you swore you would never forget; gone.

The natural abilities that made you feel special;…you get the idea.

I will find out on Monday, April 18th the results of my Neurological/psychological examination. Someone asked, “Do you feel like you’ve developed dementia?” The answer is my feelings are beside the point. I want the truth. My feelings assure me that my mind is doing really well, no problems up there. However, my feelings assured me that I could speak well, still preach a sermon.  The truth was if I thought I was speaking LIKE THIS, I was actually speaking like this. Or if I feel like I am speaking at a nice pace, I’m speaking so fast no one can understand much of what I say. Causing one person to remark, “You speak like a New Yorker on steroids.”

I felt like I was a really fast walker.  In the BIG and LOUD therapy, they have a timed walk in which you walk as fast as you can. During the walk I felt like I was walking so fast that they would question my Parkinson’s diagnosis.  When I finished the walk, I was told that the average distance for someone my age was 2,100 feet. I had walked 1,300 feet.

Finally, like most people, I was absolutely sure that I was one of the best drivers on the road. The therapist gave me a test to see how quickly I could push the brake pedal on a car. I just knew that this time my feelings were correct. TEST RESULTS?  I hit the brake pedal with all the speed of someone who is 85 years old.

Parkinson’s has shown me that I cannot really tell how I am doing with movements, speech, perception, etc. Am I developing Lewy Bodies Dementia? I hope not…but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Even if my examination shows that I have dementia don’t be afraid to invite me to a party. I may not remember who you are, and I might make a few social blunders. But I promise I will not shoot anyone, get in a knife fight, or blow anything up. I might have a damaged brain, but I still would rather love you than hurt you.

Funny thought for today.

Every once in a while, the leader of the Rock Steady boxing group has us attempt Jumping Jack’s. Most of us can either jump, move our legs, or jack, wave our arms. Every time I would try to move my arms and legs at the same time everything would freeze. My arms and legs refuse to move at the same time.

That got me thinking about Riverdance and other Irish dancers I’ve seen. Those Irish dancers really move around. Well, their legs move a lot. I cannot think of a time when I saw them move their arms and legs at the same time. Could it be that Irish dancing was invented by people who had Parkinson’s?

Please continue to pray for Harriet and me. Be sure we are praying for you

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