Thursday, April 06, 2006

Travelin' stories

It has been one of those trips you remember and talk about for years already. Seeing Tom was... impossible to describe. I found myself looking at him as an interesting medical dilemna, as The Disease, not my uncle anymore. And in a lot of ways, that's true now. But then he would respond sometimes in such a way that you recognized him.

We've been told now that his diagnosis is not just Alzheimers or might not be that at all, but is instead something called Lewy Body Type Dementia. Lewy Bodies are apparently lesions on the brain where lots of electrical signals get crossed, bunched up and jumbled. The victim has hallucinations, slower movements similar to early Parkinsons and dementia/deterioration like Alzheimers. Apparently diagnosis is rare and involves a lengthy process of elimination. Rico the night nurse seemed sort of jazzed that he was seeing a relatively rare situation.

I would post pictures of Tom with the Elmo toy his son sent for him to have, but at this point, that wouldn't really be a picture of Tom. So I'll find some of those pictures of him and dad when they were rowdy young things (Tom used to say 'Young airmen' in a funny voice when somebody was handsome). He also used to belch My mom and dad, to which his mother would say, "Yes, dear?" This is funnier when you know that they were a fairly fancy Catholic family.

The best part of the past few days (besides the hospitality of S & J) was taking Tom's wife out for Mexican food, beer and margaritas. Dad rewired a light for her while Mom and I got to talk about all sorts of things. I feel like I'm just getting to know her, and she would be a great friend to have even without any family ties. Admiration isn't a thick enough word- can you imagine the strength required to do this? To care for her son, her own health, her husband? She's a pillar.

This morning we woke up in Missoula, ready to see more doting relatives. Mom was so excited to see her family that she and dad both woke up at the butt crack of dawn. I was cranky at first but I'm working on my martyr attitude. Aren't I a joy?

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