If I Could Stick that MCI Diagnosis Back in Pandora’s Box…

 

I just read a couple of study summaries showing that people often have “accelerated cognitive loss” for up to four years, even six years before diagnosis.

Ralph and I were aware of problems a year or so before the diagnosis, but four years or longer? I have to ask myself, why didn’t I notice sooner?

Well, if I am brutally honest, I did notice some changes, but they seemed to be improving our marriage so I didn’t want to look too closely or rock the boat.

God knows, I had already spent plenty of years obsessively analyzing what I perceived as his shortcomings and my weaknesses in our long up-and-down relationship—a marriage between strong personalities who loved each other but were frequently at odds. But about five years ago, with both kids out of the house, we seemed to have entered a second honeymoon stage.

If he forgot what I told him more often than usual, I was used to him not paying attention. After thirty years together, I was used to hearing his stories repeated and repeated; so what if he repeated them twice in a day instead of twice a week. And I was used to our screaming arguments—we both had tempers—but here where the improvement had come: he no longer held onto his anger. If we argued in the evening, he woke up the next morning with no memory that there’d been a scene let alone any lingering hostility. He was more affectionate and more relaxed. (Actually he still is.)

So if he was forgetful or unfocused that was a small price to pay. I did silently question some of the business decisions he was making, but I chose to ignore the small voice in my head warning me that he was being sloppy or inattentive, making faulty investments and letting our family business slide. It was easier to leave business decisions to him. I didn’t want the responsibility. Pure selfishness. Of course ultimately, I ended up stepping in and picking up the slack in a hurry.

What secret fears and anxieties pushed him during those months and years? How much was he aware he was missing or losing? How much was he covering up for what he couldn’t quite grasp any more?

And if we knew it was MCI earlier, would our lives have been better or worse? I thought I was actually relieved to know when we first got the diagnosis, but Ralph was only more frightened.

Perhaps conventional wisdom is right that knowledge and acceptance are the more mature route, not necessarily to bliss but to a quiet appreciation of each day. But sometimes I remember that oddly happy time and wish I’d put off learning the truth; why enter the gray uncertainty we now inhabit any sooner than absolutely necessary?

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