At the moment I can’t remember which Youtube search caused me to stumble across a 1958 movie trailer for “The Blob.” But this line caught my attention:
“Every one of you watching this screen–Look out! Because soon, very soon, the most horrifying monster-menace ever conceived will be oozing into this theater!”
Or your brain, I replied. Alzheimer’s is The Blob. It eats any unfortunate creature, item, or brain function which may be standing wherever it next chooses to ooze.
My problem is that I always try to negotiate with it. Silly of me, I know. It is, after all, The Blob, and it is going to goosh onward in its inexorable way until it has absorbed and digested what it will. It doesn’t negotiate. If I were in that movie trailer I’d have been sucked right up, but here–in reality–I don’t have time to get gooshed. I’m a caregiver.
I’m stubborn, I guess, but I just can’t yield an entire battlefield at once. So, it took me from about 2008, when I first noted that Jeff’s shoe-tying skills were not operating with the usual slickness of muscle-memory, until just a couple of months ago to come up with a good solution.
I remember our first attempt to solve the shoe problem. We were in Boulder, Colorado, visiting Jeff’s brother Wade. Wade–always avant-garde compared to Jeff’s stolid Eddie Bauer basic style–was sporting a pair of the coolest sneaks, cinched up with bungee-ties, and right away I saw the possibilities.
So, off we went, the three of us, on a tour of Boulder’s sports shops, in search of easy-on shoes for Jeff. Alas, there were none to be found. The best I could do was to purchase bungee replacement shoestrings, and a sliding spring-loaded mechanism for locking them in place.
This was far from perfect. Jeff couldn’t grasp this new principle of squeeze-and-slide, so instead, I locked the clip into place such that the stretchy laces were just loose enough so Jeff could put on and take off his shoes like loafers, but just tight enough so they wouldn’t fall off.
This worked, more or less, for the next couple of years, until I noticed that Jeff had excavated, from the depths of the closet, a pair of thirty year old leather boat shoes… ones whose laces had desiccated to the consistency of road-kill, and whose outer layers were peeling off like a bad sunburn. But what they lacked in beauty they made up for by being easy to slip on without ties of any sort. Then I knew: what we needed was new boat shoes!
We went to Nordstrom. At first, the Nordstrom shoe-guy eyed me quizzically, the way much of the unsuspecting public does. His expression said “Why is this woman telling me what the obviously perfectly competent man wants?” But after he’d attempted to apply the size-gauge to Jeff’s foot while Jeff turned that foot every which way but the right way, and I’d dropped a few key phrases such as “trouble with laces” and “easy to put on,” he got a clue.
“Here,” said the shoe man, “is a pair of Sperrys. A sort of cross between a boat shoe and a loafer.” Indeed. Stretchy gussets. No laces. And comfortable right out of the box. We had, for now, found our solution.
And so it’s been with everything that ties, buckles, or buttons. When the Blob of Alzheimer’s horns in on the brain’s mechanical centers, shirts get buttoned askew, belts are buckled inside-out, and coats go on upside-down.
So I cede a little ground. We won’t wear button-downs; instead we’ll wear sweatshirts and half-zip pullovers. We’ll find a coat with snaps, so the zipper is merely optional. And as for the belt-buckle, well… I just do it myself.
Sometimes, for a sneak preview, I look ahead–at catalogs like “Super-easy Clothes to Put on People Who Can’t Do it Themselves.” (I don’t think there’s one called that, but there should be.) And I see a future of baggy stuff, velcro fasteners, things that open in any possible direction, and I know that’s where we’re headed. But not yet.
That’s always the thing with Alzheimer’s. Until stage 7 there’s always a “not yet.” Always a small patch of ground the Blob has not yet oozed through and left barren. So you try to enjoy that patch. And bring a picnic. What else are you going to do?