animal by jaap mooy, 1915-1987
This morning the local branch of Hospice put on a talk by Amy Douglas Green on dementia. This was what happened to Jr Maxwell. I was wide awake to everything she had to say. She gave the science behind it, dying brain cells, something on the order of hardening of the arteries, plaque. It happens in brain too. Seems like with all the tiny blood vessels running through the brain they'd plug up easily with plaque. There are several kinds of dementia, Alzheimer's one of them, and there are several kinds of Alzheimer's. I guess that comes down to it's individual like everything else about us. It brought back my experience with Jr, brought it back happily. Happily in that it was such a precious time. He had become the same as a baby, everything strange and new, nothing familiar. I saw when his mind went away that it was only the surface mind that fell away. The subconscious was still there, which is to say I never felt like anything happened to who Jr Maxwell was. He was still very much present. He was enough not present that I was glad it was me and not someone else taking care of him who would not know him well enough to see his self there. I wanted him to have someone with him who understood him, who would allow him to stay in his own home when he was unable to take care of himself.
I talked today about as much as Amy did. Several of us talked. We were a vocal bunch. It was all interesting. Everything Amy talked about was familiar to me, the stages along the way. Somehow having explanations of the particulars of what is happening in the brain to cause certain behaviors makes it easier for me to think about; therefore, deal with.mind loss. I've known older people all my life and I've seen the processes they go through, collectively, in the aging process. Like now I forget a lot, to the point I don't even attempt to remember anything anymore. I've seen it happen so regularly in older people I take it for perfectly natural when it happens to me. A lot of my peers resist it, get mad and hate forgetting, but I see no point in that. Fingers get arthritis. I wear a medal around my neck, an alloy of 4 metals, one of them copper, no arthritis stiffness or pain. Leave it off for two weeks and the finger joints start stiffening and hurt. Rather than become debilitated by arthritis, I wear copper. Easy. With forgetting I can make notes. I see a need for making notes rather overwhelmingly. A few days ago I thought of 4 things I needed to do in town the next day. I didn't make a note, thought I'd remember them. Next day, time to go to town, I couldn't remember any of them.
Rather than get mad at myself and blow a gasket, I laugh. It's funny. I'm doing old age stuff and it's the same me as was 15, 10, 5. Teens have their difficulties, twenties have their difficulties, as do 30s and 40s and 50s and 60s and 70s. Each phase of our development and degeneration is common to most of us. I've seen old age symptoms all my life. Every person goes into and through old age differently. It depends on the individual's attitude toward life how we get through, as in the other phases of our lives. Since I turned 70 everyone around me says, "you don't look 70." That's not what I see when I look in a mirror. I see 70 loud and clear, as much as on anybody else. I think it's that I'm not a grandparent and don't have grandkids graduating from college making me feel old. As it is, I don't feel an age. I feel a phase in a process of my own biological development and undevelopment. What I feel like more than I feel like 70 is I don't have a lot of time to go. That's what I identify with inside more than 70. There are a few things I'd like to do before I go, none of them urgent, and I have a bunch of friends I really don't want to leave. But, everything changes. Stop one thing from changing in a tapestry in continual change and you've got a flaw, a broken thread, a still point in a pattern of perpetual motion.
I feel like I'm flowing in this time of the life with my own rhythm. This is what Social Security allows. I like it not only for myself, but for everyone who gets its assistance. I'm grateful with every moment of every day for Social Security. It is allowing me a life as I want it for myself, time to paint, time to write, time not to worry about it, time to visit friends, time. Early in my life, while still in school, I reasoned that living a life is a matter of time or money. If I want money, I give up time. If I want time, I give up money. I chose time. Money is something I don't need beyond necessities. I don't want luxuries. A 93 Buick century suits me as good as a 2012 BMW sports car. Better. Takes less gas. Costs lest to insure. Costs less. Makes nobody envy me. Makes nobody jealous. Makes nobody look up to me for the wrong reasons. Makes nobody want to steal it. My old Buick says it's owner is not between anyone and what they want. Not a stepping stone nor a rung on a ladder. No conscious inclination to impress. I like a car that says this is nobody to suck up to socially, nobody you want to notice. The owner of this car can get you nowhere.
Working in Winston-Salem on a job in the late 80s, a woman I knew there who drove a Mercedes said of my blue 78 Toyota pickup with red driver's side door, "You still driving that old trap?" I said, Yeah. I was thinking, Let's race up 21 mountain and see who gets to the top first. If you do, I won't be far behind, might be pushing you. That thing was a go-kart. I loved it. It handled like an expensive car, took curves good. This 93 Buick is everything I need for get-up-and-go. First time I pushed pedal to the metal, passing gear, it threw me back in the seat and jerked the steering wheel out of my hand. I was ready the second time. Now it's like, let's go! I imagine gas consumption in that moment about 1mpg. It takes off like a rocket. It's front wheel drive and the back end drops like the bumper is going to drag, front end goes up in the air like a minor wheelie and I'm a-gettin it down the road. None of my pickups before had that "passing gear." It's not like something I'd miss if the Buick didn't have it. But it is handy when I need to get around somebody in a hurry. Once on hwy 21 between Twin Oaks and the state line, I passed a couple of college age guys in an open Jeep. They sped up like they wanted to race. I laughed at them in the rear view mirror. First car I've ever owned that would do that. It handles well in curves too. If I needed to I could drive the wheels off the thing.
The Buick has good center of gravity and good power. On the highway with a car wanting to ride up close behind me, I separate myself from it in the curves. I will take a curve faster than I know the other is able to handle it, give it gas in the curve, drive through the curve picking up speed while the car behind is fading back in the curve. It catches up to me in the straightaway and I open the gap between us through the curves. I really dislike somebody on my bumper at night with headlights. My eyes are getting psychedelic. Headlights approaching and in the rearview mirror now have rays of light going out from them in all directions. Sometimes it's a light show on hwy18 going toward Sparta, heading down the hill toward the Napco road at the bottom. The yellow reflectors in the centerline of the road, the white reflectors in the guardrails on both sides of the road, signs beside the road activated by headlights, headlights coming the other way and in the rear view mirror make a psychedelic experience. Then it's a nice glide up the hill and around the gradual curve to the left, then to the right and we're headed into Spartaritaville 35mph.