The Farmers Market parking lot was jammed and I was stuck in a line of ten cars waiting for shoppers to leave to free up parking spaces. It’s always that way if you get there before 11:00 which I usually try to avoid doing...but not this week. The early morning air at the market was crisp with a high of 65 degrees predicted but that didn’t stop people from walking around wearing short-shorts with sweatshirts and quilted jackets. In a few years when I lose the filter in my brain that keeps old people from saying exactly what we think, I’ll be shouting out the car window, “Go home and put on some pants!” I’ve seen shorts-clad people when there’s nine inches of snow on the ground and the temperature is below zero. I don’t get that. I really don’t! In some mountainous places on earth, where the sun burns the snow off by noon and the landscape warms up, short-shorts might make sense but here in Michigan, snow and below freezing temperatures are usually here for the duration of winter.
I can’t believe it’s September and I’m writing about winter already. But the not-so-subtle clues that fall has arrived hit me hard at the market: 1) I saw my first flock of birds headed south; 2) Steam rose from my fresh-ground cup of coffee; and 3) the nuns who sell baked goods to help the women's’ shelter were wearing drab sweaters over their heavy habits. I stocked up on root vegetables and squash and lusted over the famous Cheese Lady’s products. The cold air brought the dog lovers out in force. There were at least fifteen dogs there. Two vendors cater to them---one sells canine cookies and the other sells favored bones. Many vendors at the market give out samples---cookies, cheese, jerky, melon, jams, candy, bread---and one time my wheelchair bound husband rolled up to the dog cookie samples and popped one in his mouth before anyone could tell him they were canine treats. Don didn’t seem to know the difference so those of us who saw what happened traded broad smiles above his head. The market is full of widow’s memories. He loved the Farmers Market and the first summer after he passed away, I couldn’t bear to be there. Now, those memories are like warm friends who come to visit.
Sometimes I wonder if having Alzheimer’s doesn’t just sent us off to the Land of Good Memories and you like it so much you don’t want to come back. I know that’s not true, judging by how scary it is for people experiencing the early symptoms. But maybe if I tell myself that often enough, when the times comes for me---if it comes---I can avoid the scary entrance to A-Land and go directly to the middle of that timeless, zone-out existence.
My older brother called last week to tell me he’s got prostate cancer and to ask me what kind of treatments our father had for his prostate cancer. I couldn’t even remember him having prostate cancer and when I told my brother that he said, “You took him for his treatments. You don’t remember that?” I answered back, “Two hours from now I’ll remember” and that prediction came true. My time lapse in memory recall triggered two related memories---one of Don’s mother and one of my mother. Both had been asked a question by a doctor and several hours later they both answered those questions. It took that long for their brains to process the question and to answer them, and they both did that as if nothing in between the asking and the answering had happened. I still remember what I did in between my brother’s Q and A. Hallmark should make a card for that. Congratulations, your brain is functioning on four out of six cylinders!
We take so much in life for granted like fall always comes after summer. Like I’ll always have an older brother. Prostate cancer is one of the more curable cancers so I won’t let my mind go in any other direction than him living with a cure. I took it for granted my entire life that I’ll always be strong-minded and sharp enough to take care of myself and---for now---I won’t let my mind go in any other direction than to fixate on trying to keep my brain from turning to mush. With any luck, the parking lot to get into Alzheimer’s Land will be as jammed up as the early morning Farmers Market lot and I’ll have to keep circling until they find a cure with a success rate as high as that for prostate cancer. ©