The Day I Got The Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
By Sandy Olson
By now Ed and I barely spoke but we still sat at the table in the patio in the mornings, drinking coffee. It had always been the best part of our day. The kitchen in this little house in Zihuatanejo was on the patio. In addition to the sink and stove an old metal hutch stood against one wall. The little kitchen table, covered in bright-flowered oil cloth, stood against another wall. Sometimes feral cats played underneath the ferns and other plants in the overgrown garden.
After smoking a few cigarettes and drinking his coffee, Ed would get into his battered pickup truck and drive to the dive shop at the pier, where he spent long hours every day. I worked in the dive shop a couple of days a week. Mostly in the mornings I enjoyed spending time outside reading and lying in a hammock, until around 11 am, when the neighbor’s music drove me inside. On this day I walked across the street to the little store on the corner in the afternoon to buy a couple of pieces of barbecued chicken for our comida.
I had learned not to wait for Ed by now, so I ate and got out a bowl and put Ed’s chicken in the hutch. He came home later. I told him where to find the chicken. He found the bowl but the chicken was missing. “Where is it?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
“You ate my chicken and you’re lying about it.”
“I didn’t eat your chicken.”
“Then where is it?” with growing anger.
“I don’t know.”
He slammed out of the house, walked to the store and came back with more chicken. He sat and started eating. “Sit down and talk to me,” he said, between bites. “I’m scared. I think you have Alzheimer’s.”
I said, “Well, what if I do? You’re my husband. You’re supposed to take care of me.” I was feeling a little malicious. I knew how he hated being around people who needed help. He didn’t answer but kept on eating until he was finished, got up and left for the dive shop. A couple of hours later I heard a motorcycle pull up outside and answered the door to find Denny, a retired psychologist from San Diego, one of the gringos who helped out in the dive shop. “Kissing Ed’s butt,” is how I put it to myself. We weren’t friendly but here he was at my front door.
I let him in and we sat down at the kitchen table. He slipped into therapist mode. “I came at Ed’s request,” he said, “just to help if I can.”
“I don’t know why you’re here, Denny,” I said. “You don’t even like me.”
“I will never lie to you, Sandy,” he answered. I didn’t see how that followed but let it pass.
He started to look serious and objective. “What happened to the chicken?” he gently asked.
“I. Don’t. Know.” By now I was fed up but we talked a bit more and eventually Denny left. I didn’t know what he was thinking about my mental state and didn’t ask.
A day or two later when Ed and I were on the patio we heard a thumping noise and looked up to see a feral cat emerging from a hole in the back of the metal hutch, with something in its mouth. I don’t believe Ed ever cleared up the chicken mystery with Denny.
A few weeks later, I packed a duffel bag and left on the night bus. Ed eventually had a falling out with his business partner Juan and went to jail, where he died of a heart attack. Juan couldn’t keep the dive shop going without Ed and eventually lost it. Denny and I became good friends a few years later when I came back to Zihuatanejo. As for me, I’m still waiting for further Alzheimer’s symptoms to show up.