Saturday, February 28, 2009

Foggy brain

Last Saturday on the flight home from LA, my friend K and I were in a petrie-dish.  In the row directly behind us was a pre-teen who blew his nose, snorted, sniffed and coughed all the way up the Pacific coast.  In front of us was an older man whose coughs shook the very floor beneath us.  We looked at each other at one point and grimmaced, and the woman on the other side of me (who was from the same small Tlinget village in SE Alaska we went three years running a decade ago--she was sure surprised that we knew where Hoonah is!) shook her head in dismay. "You know what's coming," she said.  Prophetically. 

So I have a cold.  A sneezing, sniffling, runny nose and full sinuses cold.  And it really, really annoys me.  I hate that the stale, closed up spaces on airplanes are breeding grounds for germs. Remember the days when there were smoking sections on airlines?Why can't those who are sick be regulated to a separate section at the back of the plane.  My mother-in-law used to say reflexively every time a person sneezed around her, "Twelve feet", for the distance those little cold germs flew if a person didn't cover her mouth. There would have to be some kind of enclosure for the infected, and a flight attendent would have to wear masks in order to serve honey-lemon tea and saline rinses. But the rest of us, who were FINE!!!--before getting on the plane, would still be healthy when we get off.

Yeah, I hate colds.  I don't get them very often, and I'm quite a whiner when I do.  I live with physical pain all the time. Nerve pain, back pain, migraines.  Yes, you might say I'm a connoisseur of pain.  I can judge qualitative and quantitative differences the aches in my body like I had a phd in hurting.  But I'm telling you, this stinkin' common cold does me in. Not just because I'm carrying around wads of used and unused tissue (hopefully keeping them separated...!), and my nose is raw, but because it affects the inside of my brain as well.  I feel like I'm thinking in slow motion.  And that just bugs me.

It does make me wonder, though, about what it would be like if I had to live in a fog all the time.  Like my mom (which is pretty terrible fog) or Beve's dad, whose fog is a lot more spotty.  I don't let myself worry about the idea of dementia but of course, it's a possibility.  I listen to my mom now, and try to imagine what it would be like if all I had was this single moment, nothing else.  We all only have this moment in one sense.  We live one moment at a time, one metaphoric foot in front of the other on the long continum of life.  But in another sense every moment is built on the past.  I carry my story with me in a large chest of memories in my head.  I am the sum of those moments, and they play on every decision, every action.  Every thing I've ever done is there to one extent or another.  This is not true of a person with Alzheimers.  And, perhaps, that lies in wait for me.

I've always thought the hardest thing would be to no longer have faith.  To not remember God.  I've imagined that when everything else disappears, that would stay--if that is really at the core of a person, I mean. But I look at Mom and know that the very idea of God is beyond her comprehension.  She doesn't remember a person exists when they walk out the door of her room, let alone a person she's never seen.  A year ago, Mom was totally pre-occupied by studying the Bible.  She has a plethora of notebooks which are filled with her responses to, or simple copying of Biblical texts.  Now she cannot read at all.

But here's the thing--God doesn't count her inability to know Him now against her.  He knows her.  When she cannot say His Name, He can say hers.  When she cannot pray, He prays for her.  And for me, today, when most of what's in my head is junk that shouldn't be there (probably physically and spiritually, come to think about it), He knows my name as well.  He knows who I am and what I'm capable of.  Probably what I'm capable of is more than I know--but that's a thought for another day.  At the moment, I need to find some more Kleenex.

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