After my RJD post about my mom, I've been thinking a lot about the long, hard journey of Alzheimer's, a journey Beve and I have both watched a parent suffer. The other day I was asked if either of us have ever considered being tested for the Alzheimer's gene. This isn't the first time either of us has been asked such a question. We laugh about how the fact that each of us having a parent who died (or is dying) of this mind-stripping disease means our children will have two demented parents to care for when when they're our age. We laugh about it because that's better than crying, right?
So we could take this simple DNA test to ease our children's minds. Or help prepare them.
But neither of us are inclined to take this test. This is not because we don't care about our children. Far from it. We love our children too much to give them that kind of news years before they need it. Perhaps that seems selfish to you, but being on our second go-round with this, I can tell you that there is no such thing as really preparing for Alzheimer's. We might prepare our finances, our wills, all those practical matters but those aren't the issues that trouble the care-givers of the afflicted. What troubles the family of the afflicted is the disappearing of the beloved parent, and the inability to stop that disappearance. Before my mother died, it was like she was an invisible woman right in her body. No test she could have done a decade or two before could have prepared us for that. And no test could have prepared us for Grampie when all he can say is, "I'm all screwed up, Damn it!" or when he tries to flirt with 20-something aides.
No, what that test feels like is a guillotine hanging over one's head, if the marker shows. Sure, perhaps it won't be there. But I prefer to allow God to be God of my life--however that life might end. I believe that He has my best and Beve's best and our children's best in mind, and He will do it.
Here's the interesting thing, though. Beve thinks he'll get Alzheimer's and I think I won't. We have no particular reason for these feelings other than that he has always had a crummy memory and I have a ridiculously good one. I take no credit for my good memory, I was just born with it. But that memory might well be taken from me before my life is through. What did Job say? "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord."
I'm not saying that others shouldn't take the DNA test if it will ease their minds. But for me, and my house, that test would show what God already knows. And if He knows it, that's enough for me. You know, even in his most screwed-up moments, Beve wouldn't miss these days with his dad. I didn't have as many days with my mother. She lived across the state from me. But the days I had were the best days I EVER had with her, even though she didn't know it. I hope she knows it now. And I hope--I believe--that our children, should it come to it will find the strength and joy to be glad to share whatever our last days bring, whatever our minds are like.