On being backwards compatible – a love story

On being backwards compatible – a love story
When something is backwards compatible ?

�How�s he doing?� one woman asks the other, as the two sit at a table adjacent to mine, drinking their mid-morning coffee at the fast food restaurant in Chadron, Nebraska.

Hardworking years have ruled against their youth, making deep lines in their jaws, around their mouths, and across their foreheads. A lifetime of worry has left dark drooping shadows under their eyes.

�He�s better,� her hesitant reply with a glance tilted toward hope. �I cut his pills down from three to two.� With both hands clutching the steaming cup, she takes a slow sip. �Today, he turns 84. Yesterday, he got it all backwards and told me he was 75. It really gets wild when he turns 60. That�s when it�s hard to handle,� she reports, shaking her head, as though in disbelief.

? it possesses the ability to reach back in time ?

I have no business in their conversation. But I cannot help overhearing the heavy weight it carries and wonder if �he� has Alzheimer�s disease.

Alzheimer�s is a backwards disease that chases down detailed memories from way back in time – 50, 60, 70 years ago – and makes them current. It kills short-term memory.

Most of my knowledge of the disease is what I have learned from the media and from the experiences of others, like the lady seated next to me on a flight from Omaha to Los Angeles.

�We were married for 56 years. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer�s about 10 years before he died,� begins the 85-year-old woman.

? and work with what it finds there ?

�I took care of him in our home for quite a long time,� she continues, reaching for her wedding band and turning it repeatedly around her finger. �Towards the end, he got things backwards and thought I was his girlfriend. I played along with him for about a year or so.�

? to sustain a relationship between what was and what is.

�Until one day, he told me that he would have to kill me so that his wife would not find out,� she confesses as a matter of fact.

Her tightly packed words are strained, as though a knot has moved from her stomach to her throat. �That�s when I knew I could not take care of him any longer and called the doctor.�

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her column writing has won first-place national and state awards in The Federation of Press Women competitions. For more information, e-mail pauladamon@iw.net.

Copyright � 2007 Paula Damon

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