I’ve never had birthday trauma before. Um… I don’t think. If I have, I totally don’t remember. This time, though, is a different story. I keep meeting really old people only to discover they are younger than me. What? Am I living in a fantasy world… already?
I’ve been told I look like I could be in college. Then again, I’ve read about 99-year-old college students, so that’s not helpful. I think part of the problem with this birthday is that we celebrated it by going to dinner and a movie. At the restaurant the waitress called me Sweetie! Ahhhh! It’s a sure sign you’re getting old when someone calls you Sweetie! Ehh? What’s that you say, Tootsie Pie? You don’t want a tip today?
And it certainly didn’t help that the movie we saw was called “Still Alice,” a great movie that just happened to be about a vibrant woman who was dealing with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Yikes! What was I thinking? Was I even thinking? Double yikes!
Last year my husband had a scare. He called to tell me that he was on his way to the gym. A couple hours later when he wasn’t home, I got concerned and called his phone. He didn’t answer. I soon found out why. During his workout something strange happened. Suddenly Dee couldn’t remember where he was or how he got there. Looking down at his gym clothes he thought, “What am I doing dressed like this?” He wandered around the facility for a while before someone asked him what he was looking for. He didn’t know.
By the time I got a phone call, he was in the ER. Other than being hooked to an IV and some monitors, he looked just fine. He smiled and greeted me.
“Will somebody please tell me what I’m doing here?” he asked.
My son explained that he’d had some memory loss and they were doing tests to find out why. Dee was baffled. A few minutes later he said, “Will somebody please tell me what I’m doing here?” My son explained again, adding, “Dad, we just told you this a minute ago.” “Bull sh**!” he responded. We were shocked. Rarely have we heard him use profanity. A few minutes later he asked again. “Will somebody please tell me what I’m doing here?” It was followed by the same response with the same profanity.
The exact conversation continued in a loop about ten times. Finally, I took out my iPad and videoed it. The next time he asked, I played it back. He could not believe it! It took at least twenty times more before he was convinced.
The test results confirmed that Dee had experienced what is called Trans Global Amnesia. TGA is not associated with Alzheimer’s or stroke. It’s an uncommon, mysterious occurrence that rarely happens twice. It turned out that he was just fine, but permanently lost seven hours of his cognitive life.
Those seven hours were an epiphany. From then on the intensity of his activities bumped up dramatically —hiking, canyoneering, rappelling and ice climbing. Relationships took on new meaning. As it turned out, the experience was rather valuable to him. It was valuable for me too. I learned how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity while you still can. Don’t you remember? You told me to buy this new outfit when you were in the hospital!
But back to my birthday. Now what was I saying? Um… something about being too young to be called Sweetie. I think that was it. Now, remind me why that’s a bad thing?