Friday, May 22, 2009

Walk Down No Memory Lane

I’m reading a book my mother gave me, called Still Alice, by Lisa Genova. Mom said she couldn’t put it down and thought I would enjoy it as much as she did. The main character is a 50-year old woman, who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer ’s disease. The book is extremely well written and takes the reader inside the thoughts of the main character, dramatizing the effects of the disease on her family. However, after a couple of weeks, I’m only halfway through and keep putting the book down, because the story hits way too close to home.

Yesterday, I had three items on my errand list: 1) Go to the post office and submit a change of address, 2) Buy blank address labels at Office Max, and 3) Shop for a dress to get married in. (Yes, Gene eventually did formally propose marriage, and we are getting married on June 6th.) Not being terribly familiar with the downtown Austin area, I asked Gene for directions to the nearest post office and Office Max. I didn’t write down the directions. That was my first mistake.

From the softball fields where Gene had just finished playing his game, I was to travel along Pleasant Valley Road and turn east on 6th Street to get to the post office. “Here’s 5th Street”, I said to myself, be-bopping along in my Durango. The next street I came to was 7th Street. “Hey, wait one minute! Where’d 6th Street go?!” I figured that I must not have been paying attention, so I turned right on 7th Street and cut back across on the next road, expecting to intersect 6th Street. But instead, I came upon 5th Street again. What in the world?!!! I was terribly frustrated, remembering that I had opted not to change my address online because of the $1 fee, realizing I had likely used up about $5 worth of gas at this point. I tried calling Gene from my cell phone, but there was no answer.

Not wanting to waste anymore of my time looking for the hidden post office, I headed toward Office Max. Gene and I made the trip to Office Max just a few days before, so I thought I knew where it was, but as I began to travel in the maze of downtown Austin, I realized I had no clue where the store was located. I circled the same blocks over and over, expecting a different result, but Office Max simply was not where I thought it was. I called Gene again; Still no answer.

As I expanded the perimeters of my block search, I spied the downtown post office. At least I’d found one item on my list, albeit not the location I was originally searching for. I completed the change of address form, but couldn’t decide which one of the receptacles to place it in. In the area where the stamp would’ve gone were the words “No postage necessary if mailed anywhere in the U.S.” “Should I put it in the “Stamped Mail Only” slot or the “Metered Mail” slot?” I asked myself. I mean, after all, there was no stamp on the form, and it hadn’t been metered either. Why was there no “None Of The Above” slot? I finally opted for “Stamped Mail Only” and, on my way out, thankfully had the wherewithal to ask a man in the lobby where the nearest Office Max was located. I was so close to Office Max I could’ve spit on it, as the crow flies. But seeing as I was driving, it took me another ten minutes of navigating one-way streets to get there.

Feeling elated with a sense of accomplishment after leaving Office Max, I decided to go shopping at the Barton Creek Mall. As I approached the mall parking lot, my cell phone rang. No, it wasn’t Gene. It was my dear friend, Paula. We were having a wonderful conversation and still talking as I drove into the mall, parked the car and went inside. I shopped for a couple of hours, but did not find what I was looking for.

My feet hurt. My back hurt. I was hungry and tired. Not a good combination. Overly ready to leave, I walked out the JC Penney exit to the parking lot and looked about. None of the scenery was familiar. I surmised that I must’ve come in a different entrance. Not finding another exit in JC Penney, I walked back into the mall. I looked around, but couldn’t put couldn’t recall coming through any of the entrances there either. I obtained a store directory and looked it over, determining that I must’ve come in at JC Penney.

Returning to the original JC Penney exit, I walked into the bright sunlight, stared at the rows of cars before me, but did not see mine anywhere. Assuring myself that my car must be close by, I walked further into the parking lot. After several minutes of walking, shielding my eyes from the brightness and mindful of my aching back and sore feet, I became more and more dismayed. What if I was getting Alzheimer’s, like the woman in my book? What if Gene never answered his phone and I wandered in the parking lot for years like Moses in the wilderness? Would anyone I know ever find me? Nobody knew where I was.

I called Gene’s phone again, and this time my son, Eric, answered (he’s now living in the trailer house behind Gene’s home). I asked him if Gene was there and he found Gene outside, watering the plants.

“This is going to sound weird, Honey,” I said, “but I’m lost in the Barton Creek Mall parking lot. I can’t find my car anywhere.” Gene calmed me down and suggested I push the Panic Button on my key fob. Now, why didn’t I think of that? He said, “Walk around the parking lot, and if you’re within 100 feet of your car, the alarm will sound.” Great idea! Now, I only had to will my aching feet to walk around the mall parking lot while I pressed the button.

Endowed with a great deal of resilience, I set out with my new plan, pressing my Panic Button. I walked around the corner of JC Penney toward Dillard’s and saw another exit not listed on the store directory. Suddenly, I knew where my car was parked. As I walked toward it, I pressed the Panic Button anyway, just to test out Gene’s theory. Like balm to my soul, the alarm sounded. No more need to panic.

When I got home, I began reading Still Alice again. I didn’t get very far, though. I fell fast asleep.

From the movie, “Finding Nemo”:
Dory: "I suffer from short-term memory loss.”

Marlin: “Short-term memory loss?” (Dory nods) “I don't believe this!”

Dory: “No, it's true! I forget things almost instantly. It runs in my family! Well I mean... at least... I think it does. Hum... Where are they? ... Can I help you?"

Never Give Up, Y’all!!

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