Losing Two “Old Friends”

Like other people with dementia, Kate’s memory is progressively worse all the time. At the time of her diagnosis, we were told that she would remember the things that were most important the longest. I’d say that’s the way it has worked out. This week I have seen the signs that two of her favorites are now dropping from her memory.

One of those is Willie Nelson. I think her fondness for him relates mostly to the fact that he’s a Texan. For years, her eyes have brightened at the mention of his name. Recently, that has been replaced by a question. “Who is he?” I don’t mean that he is completely forgotten. I expect there will be other times when she responds the way she used to; however, the fact that she hasn’t known a few times suggests that his name is gradually receding from her memory bank.

Willie hasn’t been nearly as important as something else in Kate’s life – Dr. Pepper. That’s a popular drink in Texas and with her family. Her cousin played an important role in the establishment of the Dr. Pepper Museum. She has a variety of Dr. Pepper memorabilia at our house. It has been her preferred drink for as long as I have known her. That is now changing.

She has always been particular about the mixture of seltzer to syrup when she gets a Dr. Pepper from a fountain like they have at many self-serve locations. She likes it to match what she gets in cans. Over the past year or so and especially the past few months, she hasn’t liked the Dr. Pepper she is served in restaurants. She has asked me to taste them, and I can’t tell any difference. Although I am not as sensitive as she is, I believe it is her taste that is changing and not the drinks themselves.

The big surprise, however, came last night when we went to dinner. As she got out of the car, she said, “What am I going to have to drink?” I don’t recall her ever asking that before, especially before we have entered the restaurant. I told her they probably had Dr. Pepper and, if not, she could have her half-sweet and half-unsweetened tea. She said, “What is Dr. Pepper?” I was shocked. That was the first time she has failed to recognize her favorite drink. When the server asked what she would like to drink, I looked at Kate and said, “Dr. Pepper?” She gave a frown. I told the server to bring her iced tea.

It may seem a bit trivial to others, but I look at this as yet another marker on this journey.

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