As I settle in to watch Game 6 of the World Series, Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians, (Go Cubs!) I realize how grateful I am for the excitement and distraction of baseball.
I went to Cub’s games as a kid and it’s fun to think the curse of the goat has finally been lifted.
My brothers used to tease me for being a Cub’s fan when we were growing up. They are White Sox fans. But that didn’t stop them from finagling me into playing catcher for their pick-up wiffle ball games in the backyard. All the neighborhood boys came. There was one kid who was always picked first. He was the only kid we knew who was bald but no one made fun of him. He was that good.
In 2010, this “kid” was made manager of the Chicago Cubs. I guess he’s with a Twin’s triple A team now.
My mom was once a Cub’s fan. She was born and raised in the city and she used to ditch school and take the El to the Wrigley Field. A few weeks ago, she told me to pray for the Cubs. Mind you, she has no idea about baseball anymore. She can’t follow a game. She wouldn’t know a curve ball from a hairball. I’m not sure what prompted her request. But, okay. I did.
Alzheimer’s is funny like that. It’s not funny what it does. It’s relentless. It has taken her and transformed her into a sometimes goofy, sometimes paranoid, sometimes harsh, sometimes diminished, sometimes exaggerated version of herself. We don’t know who she is. And she sure doesn’t know who we are.
She’s been hallucinating lately, so the doctor has her on anti-hallucinatory meds. Hopefully, those will calm her down. Curiously, she is well physically, aside from a sore hip or knee. We can’t tell. Neither can she.
This has not been true for my dad.
We noticed that Pops has had some issues with trembling hands. His gait is a shuffling slow motion turtle waltz. He’s also been falling quite a bit during the past six months. He said he tells his legs to go but they don’t go. Tough for an old Marine sergeant. He started using a walker and still he fell.
The doctor diagnosed him with Parkinson’s, a form of dementia.
He’s been mixing up his words.
And worlds. He talks about his living room being his office. How he needs to get the payroll out. How there’s not enough room in the office for all the staff. Then his hands shake.
When physical therapy wasn’t working, and combined with his issues above, the doctor diagnosed him with Lewy Body Dementia.
We got called slammed by Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lewy Body and the other six players on the offensive dementia brain team.
We also whiffed at bat.
From my softball days, I remember that feeling of the first called strike when you’re up to bat. You remind yourself to sit back, keep your eye on the ball, clear your head, and then you take your stance. You hope the pitcher will give you one low and inside, or high and outside. You’ve practiced for this.
When the second strike is called, you may swear at yourself for not being ready or for not following through with your swing. You choke up on the bat. You remind yourself to breathe. Just breathe.
When you swing and miss again, the umpire yells, “You’re out.” You stomp back to the dugout or the bench determined to get a hit next time. The other team is relieved. But, you feel like mud.
In dementia land, when that third strike is called, you also feel like mud.
You were thrown a curving sinker and it fooled you. It’s like you’re back to being a rookie. You realize you didn’t practice for this play or this scenario.
It’s a total dust-up.
There are now new signals to learn. New terms. New signs. New meds. New symptoms. It’s a different game and you realize you don’t even want to play in this game. You want to take your ball and go home.
But, you can’t quit. You have to stay in the game.
Your emotions go haywire.
No, there’s no crying in baseball, but in the game of dementia, it’s okay to shed a few tears.
Three outs. Three strikes. It’s tough.
Meanwhile, all you can do is remain vigilant as you wait for this cloud of dust to settle. And while you learn the rules of this new game, remind yourself to keep breathing.