Elizabeth encountered an incident earlier this week, this moved her sufficiently to want to write something about it. This is her story.
He shook my hand firmly, holding it tight. Then he wouldn’t let go. This was my first impression that something was wrong. His blue eyes stared at me intently and I got a little uncomfortable. He was a good foot taller and perhaps a 100 pounds more. What did he want? I panicked a little. Let go of my hand, I pleaded mentally. Which finally, he did.
“Nice to meet you Bob,” I stammered. Quickly I grabbed the door handle to my new home and disappeared into the apartment. “Eric! ERIC!!” I had been here less than 24 hours and already something seemed wrong.
Bob is our neighbor. He lives alone. Eric has known him for a little time and proceeded to tell me that Bob has Alzheimers. This is more noticeable when you study him a little. With time, we have become accustomed to his routine; Price is Right from 11 to noon, then he’s promptly out the door for his daily walk through town. Bob cuts a very striking figure, quite tall with a shock of the whitest hair. When he walks his hands are clasped behind his back, and an ever increasing stoop. He waves and smiles at strangers. Bob is a harmless creature as he putters along, inquisitively looking in through store windows.
Once in a while, he pops into the local hotel for a beer. Sometimes, we would see him doing what Eric has termed his chicken dance on the street. He is a happy go lucky guy, a real character. I wish I could dance with such abandon. On two occasions that I know of, Bob returned home with a black eye and a couple of cuts to his face. Who would do such a thing to this innocent man?
Bob has a family, but you would hardly know it. They give him a dutiful gift on his birthday, also at Christmas. It ends there. Even so, he doesn’t seem lonely. He has his daily walks and the people on the street.
3 years ago I was filling out Christmas cards and had some left over. I filled one out for Bob and put it under his door. He told the whole building that he got a card. He was so happy. Our neighbors let us know. He never said a word to us. This has become a tradition now. When we move, Bob will always get a Christmas card.
I was in one of the local confectionaries yesterday getting a couple of lottery tickets. The cashier suddenly stiffened and said, “Oh, that guy always gives me the creeps.” I looked at her quizzically and she motioned to the window. Bob was looking in, and then he left.
“Oh no, no, no”, I said. “That’s Bob. He has Alzheimer’s. He’s harmless.”
She stared at me. Relieved, she said, “Thank you so much for telling me. Now it makes sense. Thank you.”
I remembered the first time I shook hands with Bob, now this cashier getting upset. It occurred to me, how many others?
Just how many Bobs are out there suffering Alzheimer’s, giving people the wrong impression? Even more, how many of us recognize it for what it is?