Turmeric and coconut oil, the email writers said, is the answer. A teaspoon of each per day and Bella will be kicking Alzheimer’s to the curb before summer.
Others have been insistent she has Lyme disease, not Alzheimer’s (and have I heard about Kris Kristoffersen’s misdiagnosis?).
A retired doctor called us to say Bella should take two blood tests for Lyme. He emailed us the addresses and price lists for the labs and insisted I check our email while I was on the phone with him. He said I should send him the test results to interpret, because other doctors without his expertise would miss things.
All this came after we told our story to Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio, and National Public Radio picked the story up and broadcast it all over the country.
Through that experience, I learned that just about every member of my large, extended family listens to National Public Radio, and so do a lot of other people.
The morning the story went up nationally, our phone rang at 6:45 and I answered, blearily, to a woman talking fast about diet and her ex-husband and her own IQ test and more.
“Why are you calling me?” I said.
“Because of the radio show,” she said.
It’s hard to know how to react to positive feedback for a situation you wish didn’t exist. Bella and I want more than anything else for the Alzheimer’s to go away, but we’re trying to steer clear of false hope for a miracle cure and avoid wasting time and money on dead ends.
We know the hours we have left are fewer than we expected, and money will soon be in shorter supply than when Bella was working.
Now, as she starts her premature retirement, we’re trying to figure out how to reconfigure our lives.
Bella’s energy is still formidable and she has already used it to reposition all the furniture in the library, pick out paint for the family room, begin work on a new floor in the downstairs bathroom and remove part of a sideboard she never liked, piling papers, art and dishes on the dining room table in the process.
Each room has things out of place, a reflection of our lives now. We are not going to return to a place where everything seems to be in order, where we think we know what the next week will bring.
We have received an outpouring of kindness and warmth, from people we know well and people we don’t know at all. All of it helps, even the advice we disregard.
My favorite note came from a woman who talked about her husband, who had emerged from a heart attack and coma with a simpler, less capable but less prickly disposition. She has had to take on a lot of responsibility but has become more independent and decisive.
She refuses to use phrases like “silver lining” or “on the upside,” but she mentioned a poem by the 17th century Japanese poet and samurai, Mizuta Masahide, which I love:
“Barn’s burnt down —
I can see the moon.”
The restlessness I have always felt, to be accomplishing something, recedes now when I sit on the couch in the family room, with Bella in her favorite chair, to read and watch the news and talk.
Sometimes she sits beside me on the couch and I rub her feet. Often, she reaches down from her chair to pet our bunny, Beans, and he presses his neck against her hand.
Conditions change, but for this hour and maybe the next, we are here.
Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at @trafficstatic.