*Primary Progressive Aphasia, a degeneration of the part of the brain that affects speech.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Do You Have A Visual?

On the day my daughter and I were combing the aisles of Ocean State Job Lots, we weren’t seeking the retailer’s “quality brand name merchandise at closeout prices,” but instead were searching for Tommy.

“I don’t have a visual,” I shouted to Faith.

“Me neither,” she said.

The tour of the 40,000-square-foot warehouse in Boston was Faith’s idea to keep my husband and I entertained during our visit to her hometown. She knows Tommy is frugal, and thought he’d enjoy browsing. It was there I was teaching her an exercise I call, “Find Tommy.”

I don’t think my husband deliberately tries to lose me. But now, during our trip, perhaps he had had enough of my hovering, my reminding, my suggesting, and decided to give me the slip.

Even if Tommy was just teasing me with his disappearing act, I worried because his condition has left him vulnerable if he should get lost. Hence my hunt.

At Job Lots, as Faith and I were mid-search, I shouted to her, “Check pet supplies.” 

“Nope,” she called back.

“Weed and feed fertilizer?” my daughter yelled. She knows Tommy loves gardening, so that section seemed a good bet.

We threaded the aisles as if in a maze. Down through household cleaners, up through bed linens, past golf shirts, until I spotted his Red Sox baseball cap.

“Hi Honey,” I said, as I latched onto his elbow. “Having fun?”

I gave no hint as to the game Faith and I had just competed in. My husband is a proud, physically-fit, 75-year-old, who bravely copes with his handicap.

I, on the other hand, am often muddled.

Consider this incident that occurred on the day we were to attend a children’s musical with my 10-year-old granddaughter in a major role.

“You must explore Jamaica Pond,” Faith had said on our first day as she dropped us off at our Bed & Breakfast lodgings. “Just turn left from your front door, cross the street at the light, and you’ll be on the trail. It’s a one-and-a-half-mile circle.”

Tommy, a committed exerciser, who regularly walks two miles around our neighborhood, brightened when he heard my daughter’s suggestion.

Jamaica Pond is indeed a beautiful area, with sailboats lolling on the water, parents pushing strollers, athletes jogging or running, and dog owners tugging leashes.  As soon as we dropped our suitcases in our room, my husband and I turned left from our front door and headed for the stoplight.

Before we reached the corner, Tommy started to cross. “Honey,” I said, as I dragged him back. “Look at these cars speeding by. You can’t cross here. We have to go to the light.”  We didn’t do the complete circle, just enough to give us a taste.

On the afternoon of my granddaughter’s show -- our primary reason for coming to town -- I was relaxing on the bed when I looked up to see Tommy lacing his gym shoes.

“Where are you going?” I asked. He pointed in the direction of the pond. “But, I don’t want to go,” I said. “I’m resting.”

He continued to point and indicated he was planning to leave without his hawk-eyed wife.

“You can’t go alone.” I said. I jumped from the bed. This time, I had a visual: in my mind’s eye, I saw him cross in the middle of the street. If he did make it to the other side, I pictured him lost. I envisioned a police search, a missed performance, and a daughter miffed at my messing up the evening.

But then I thought: I’m overreacting. Maybe he can handle it. I stuffed his pockets with the B&B’s address, my business card, and his cellphone.

Then, Tommy decided to shave. He used a Bic razor because he forget to bring along his electric. When he emerged from the bathroom, his chin was bleeding. He was heading for the door.

“Honey,” I said. “You’re bleeding. You can’t go out like that.”

I pulled him to the bed and applied Neosporin and a Band-aid. The words, “what were you thinking” suddenly slapped me. If Tommy didn’t notice, nor care, that he was bleeding, how could he travel safely on his own to the Pond?

“I’ll go with you,” I said. I put on my gym shoes, we turned left at the front door, crossed the road at the light, and did a 20-minute trek.

That evening, we had front row seats. My eyes didn’t leave my granddaughter for the entire musical. Well, maybe once or twice. He thought she was terrific, too.


  1. Moving and beautiful. Caring and compassionate.You are amazing!

  2. Sorry I haven't been here in ages. I lost track of people. This is lovely, though, and I'll be back!

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