Getting ready for and traveling to Lubbock has provided me with additional information on Kate’s condition. It is amazing how much I can overlook until something special happens to alert me. In this case, I am specifically talking about Kate’s loss of short-term memory. This is a term I have used for a long time in this journal, perhaps several years. In each instance, I have used it to convey that she forgets things quickly. Looking back, I can see that the same words (short-term memory) do not communicate the same set of events. What I thought was short-term memory then I now think of us “medium-term” memory. Let me describe what short-term memory was like as we prepared for and left on this trip.
For months, I have been telling Kate that we would be going to Lubbock for our oldest grandson’s high school graduation. During the week or so before our departure this past Friday (today is Monday), I frequently reminded her that we would leave in one week (4 days, 1 day, etc.) for Lubbock. Usually I mentioned that we were going for Brian’s high school graduation. Sometimes I didn’t. In those cases, she would express surprise that we were going. Then I would remind her of the graduation.
Friday morning when she woke up, I reminded her that we were going to Lubbock for the graduation. Throughout the morning as we prepared to leave she forgot that we were going. As we walked from the car to the terminal in Knoxville, I said something about her being very trusting of me, that she probably didn’t know where we were going. I asked if she would like me to tell her. I did, and she expressed surprise.
A few minutes before we touched down in Lubbock, I told her that we were coming in 25 minutes ahead of schedule. She asked, “Tell me again where we are going?” I told her once again. For me, this was a dramatic example of her having essentially no short-term memory at all. I have heard other people talk about this, but this is the first time I have really understood how much memory she has lost.
Once here, she has been surprised that Jesse is also here although I have been telling her that as well.
Traveling itself presents its own problems. We arrived at the airport early enough to get a bite to eat before our noon flight. Kate stood beside and slightly behind me as we ordered our food. After I had paid, I turned to hand Kate her food and noticed that she was gone. I looked all around and couldn’t see her. I took our food to a nearby table and then started looking around the area. I decided that she must have gone to the restroom. As I was looking, the woman from whom I bought our food mentioned that she might be in the restroom. I told her I thought that might be the case, but that she has Alzheimer’s, and I was concerned that she would not be able to find her way back. I was very alarmed as we were in a small area; so she couldn’t go far unless she went completely back to the main terminal area. I told the woman what Kate was wearing. In a few minutes, the woman had found Kate wandering around.
This incident is just another reminder of how quickly she can get away. In the Atlanta airport, we almost had another one. We were waiting in line to give our boarding passes to the attendant at the gate before they started boarding. When the line started to move forward, I saw Kate turn around and walk away in the other direction. She had apparently gotten tired of standing in line and simply wanted to move around. The problem is that without any short-term memory, she won’t remember to come back or where to come back to. Fortunately, I was able to call her. She came back and all everything was fine.
I am beginning to feel less comfortable letting her go to restrooms. I am now reluctant to leave her alone while I go to the men’s room. This was not a problem on this trip. I did feel all right going to the restroom at Panera in Knoxville before leaving for the airport. Then I was able to go on the plane, something that she rarely does. We have two other planned trips, one to Chautauqua in July and the second to Fort Worth for our 55th TCU class reunion in October. I wonder how I will feel about traveling when the time comes.
Our first full day in Lubbock
We had a good first day in Lubbock yesterday. I slept until 6:30 which enabled me to get to the breakfast shortly after it opened at 7:00. This is the first time that I have brought breakfast back to the room instead of eating in the breakfast room. I just didn’t feel comfortable leaving her.
We are at breakfast on Monday morning. I told Kate that I had just received a text from Kevin. She said, “Kevin?” I said, “Are you surprised?” She said, “Well, yes.” I didn’t say anything more. I sent Kevin a text telling him where we are. He sent a reply, and I mentioned it to Kate. She said, “Where are we?” I told her Lubbock and that we are here for Brian’s high school graduation.