Fear wears many labels yet is attached to none. It is the best of shape-shifters. I know none better than fear.
It presents dramatically, and I wonder if one of fear’s physical presentations is dementia. On any day, I can find it in the eyes of my neighbor, Evelyn. Fear knows when it has found fertile ground.
It is not a friend of the elderly but then, is fear a friend at any age? Questions seem to keep it at bay so perhaps staying curious is what keeps the world within one’s reach.
Curiosity frees the mind of cobwebs, even its corners, so dementia does not hang freely, spinning its web from rafter to rafter unchallenged.
Any chronic disease requires the body’s constant adaptation–no cell is immune. Yet, in awareness there is awe of the process, degenerative though it may be.
In acceptance, fear flies. It is as the air. What remains is what must be faced but without fear, options appear. Therein lies the complexity, meeting the moment rather than covering it up with one label or another.
Oh, I know fear so well but what I don’t know is dementia.
I keep thinking that fear is where my neighbor, Evelyn, and I can meet, but for now we find ourselves in Iowa. Evelyn likes to call dementia by name, as if in admitting, she finds acceptance. And maybe she does.
But if I posed that question to her, she would think me daft, and rightfully so. Mine is not to raise the hue and cry but to stand with Evelyn on her field of fear as her lookout but not her mouthpiece. I am on her plane at her invitation.
But there are days I want to run through the rows of her Iowa corn fields, meet her extended family–they all stayed in Cedar Rapids–cheer at her high school graduation, have dinner with her and her beloved parents.
The details of the Iowa story are ever-changing, although all the moments are the same so in each telling, the picture is a bit different. Something is remembered or forgotten. Dementia can seem kind as it spins its cocoon.
I stay silent as we walk through her life, fear far afield in Iowa, until our return to Florida, sometimes abruptly. Regardless, there seems little magic in the now.
Yet, in our last trip to Iowa we discovered a shared love of cribbage. I tell her I know the rules but she will have to shuffle the cards. What is not possible for one is possible for the other. Perhaps we have discovered another land not so fertile for fear.
*Thank you to Leonard Huber for these images of St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge.