It’s not like I wake up every day in a cold sweat, worried that I might have Alzheimer's. Or that if I'm not actually presenting symptoms right now, I'll be presenting them soon. Sometimes I can go for hours before I grope helplessly for a word and remember I actually have something to worry about. Alzheimer's is the disease that took my mother; frankly, knowing it's often hereditary scares the (fill in the bleep) out of me. It wasn't death that took her, it was her gradual disappearance in the years before she died; day by day, week by week, and month by month, when it was so hard to find the woman I knew, the mother I remembered, inside.
So, despite my husband and my son's insistence that my memory lapses are nothing to worry about, I do worry, and when I misplaced my phone this week, I couldn't help recalling my mother's constant refrain "Where's my purse? Has anyone seen my purse?"
"Has anyone seen my phone?" I asked, aiming for a calm, collected tone. After all, everyone misplaces their phone sometimes, otherwise there wouldn't be a Find My iPhone app. My son dialed my number; nada. Shoot. I must have set the phone on silent. How else to escape the distracting tone of twitter tweets? I began the ritualistic search process; hard surfaces — the tables, side tables, end tables, bedside tables, coffee table, dining room table (so many tables on which to set down a phone) bedroom dressers, desks, book shelves, entertainment units, kitchen counters, bathroom counters; not a pink encased iPhone in sight.
"Did you check your purse?"
Of course I'd checked my purse; it was the first place I checked. I reached in and rumbled around again. Not there. I felt around on top of the fridge. I took a deep breath and looked inside the fridge, grateful I didn't find it there. Misplacing items and putting them in 'unusual places' — like the phone in the fridge — is one of the early signs of Alzheimer's disease.
In the living room I pulled out all the couch cushions. In the bedroom I ransacked the bed. I peeled back the duvet, pulled up the sheets, threw the pillows off. Phew. Down on my knees peering under the bed. God! Someone needs to dust under there. The clothes basket? I dug around, went through a few pockets and came up with a few coins, but no iPhone.
"Did you check your car?"
"I haven't driven anywhere."
I'd been to a couple of stores for some Drano® and a new shower curtain liner earlier in the day but I'd walked. I wondered if I'd left my phone at the check stand. My husband called Ross and Kmart while I scratched my head and checked the windowsills. I checked the trash remembering I'd thrown the plastic Kmart bag away. Maybe my phone was in the bag? Usually I save them under the sink like a little old lady, but there the bag was, sitting right near the top of the trash, one lift of the finger tip away. No phone inside.
"Ross doesn't have it and I'm still on hold with Kmart" the husband reported back as I flashed on an image; me putting something down on top of a squishy plastic bath mat while I sniffed the vinyl of a shower curtain liner. That was at Ross, I was sure of it. I could still smell the toxic stink of the vinyl liners I didn't buy but was that my phone I set down on top of that squishy bath mat? I couldn't bring that detail up.
Still on hold with Kmart, husband drove me to the store. Five minutes passed as we waited at customer service, only to be told no, no phone. No one ever did come on the line. I headed for the down escalator.
"I'm retracing my steps."
"Okay" he said. "But slow down."
Slow down, you move too fast. I do. I walk too fast, do everything too fast. Back in 2000 when I fell in the hallway of my son's elementary school, there was so much blood seeping from my head and onto the floor that they had to reroute the kids going out to recess, and my husband had to come racing from work while an ambulance rushed me unconscious to the hospital. It wasn't the couple of stairs in the hall that tripped me up, it was because I was half-running while trying to read one of my first publication credits, an article on what to read after you've read Harry Potter, in L.A. Parents magazine. I was late to his classroom Christmas party, my hands full of holiday treats, and couldn't take the time to stop but couldn't wait one second more to see my piece in print either.
Had I put my phone down in the cleaning products aisle while I tried to decide which Drano® to buy? What's the difference between Drano® Max Gel Clog Remover, Drano® Dual-Force Foamer Clog Remover and Drano® Liquid Clog Remover? I still don't know. But the phone wasn't there.
At Ross the store manager told me if someone did find the phone, they weren't going to turn it in. I already knew that. That's what happens when you shop at only the finest retail establishments.
Another woman was at the customer service counter too, looking for her lost phone.
"You have better luck" she told me, "because you live here." Um, okay? "I'm only here because I just have artificial insemination. I need to talk to my family, my doctor. I'm doctor too. I have patients who need me. I have to call my service every day!"
"Oh, I'm so sorry!" I said, suddenly feeling responsible for the loss of her phone. "Good luck!" I said, hightailing it out of there.
"Follow me" I called to my husband over my shoulder. I knew which route to use to avoid aisles clogged with stuffed shopping carts.
I found the squishy bath mat. I did not find the phone.
I wanted to walk home, retrace my steps completely but the husband said no. It's dark and I would have noticed had I dropped the phone. "Sleep on it" he told me. If it doesn't turn up in the morning, he'll walk back with me. The phone will be gone by then I think but don't bother arguing.
At home, Russell's been looking too. I could see he's upturned the couch cushions again."Oh, honey! I told you not to bother." But he can't help it. He can't stand it when people lose their phones.
We watch TV for awhile, I pretend to pay attention to the program but I can't get my missing phone off my mind. The husband says it's a great excuse to buy the new iPhone 6 but I'm perfectly happy with the phone I
Suddenly I remember that I talked to my sister that day, and that when I hung up, I told my son that Tyler, his second cousin, said hello.
"I talked to Nancy after I got back from the store, didn't I? So I had my phone then, right?"
He has no idea. I want to call Nancy and ask her, pinpoint the exact time I last had my phone but neither husband or son has her number in their phones. What if something happened? I think. What if something happened to me? Like what if I came down with a sudden case of Early Onset Alzheimer's? How would they contact her?
I think about asking Russell to text my niece — I know he has her number — to ask her to call my sister but I check the time and it's almost 11pm. And it's all just too complicated. I get up and go into the kitchen. Double check the window sill again. Search behind the toaster, the coffee maker, under the bananas in the fruit bowl. Open up the cabinets. I contemplate the stainless steel trash can in the corner. It shines back at me accusingly until I pull a pair of purple dishwashing gloves from under the sink and start to go through the garbage.
There it is, a layer or two under the Kmart bag, just sitting there, barely scathed.
"Found it. Found my phone." I announce brushing a few stray coffee grinds away. I boil some water, add a squirt of dishwasher and throw the case in. I plug my naked phone into the charger. Neglected, it's gone totally dead.
I'm glad I found my phone. I'm just not happy about where I found it.
But people do lose their phones, people lose things all the time, my guys remind me again. Some people, I think to myself, thinking of my mother and her constantly missing purse. Back then, before she was diagnosed, we put it down to her being scatterbrained, a bit of a ditz.
According to the Oxford dictionary online, the definition of scatterbrained is 'disorganized and lacking in concentration'. They actually use the phrase 'a scatterbrained blonde' to help expand our understanding of the word! Pretty insulting to all us blondes out there, bottled and otherwise. I'd be a bit more offended if I hadn't myself sent out this tweet about losing my phone ...
Speaking of #StillAlice I lost my phone yesterday then found it hours later in the trash. Shades of things to come or just a dizzy blonde?
— Chapter1-Take1 (@simcarter) November 25, 2014
But maybe that's all it is, I'm a dizzy blonde, a bit of ditz. While no one wants to believe they're a scatterbrained 'dizzy blonde' maybe that's the truth, that I've always been a bit of a ditz. Like when I was high school and forgot my retainer on the table at a fast food joint a couple of blocks from Samohi. When I got home and told my dad, rather than forking out the cash for a new one, he insisted on driving me back to the restaurant that afternoon so I could go dumpster diving. To his credit he rolled up his sleeves — he of the eternally shirt and tie wearing variety of father — to help and before any of my SAMO classmates could spot me, we spotted the retainer, near the top of the trash. I wore it to bed that night having boiled away the germs in a pot of water on top of the stove.
Who leaves their retainer on the table at a fast food restaurant? Who throws their phone in the trash?
Could it be signs of Alzheimer's? Sure, it could be. Then again, it could just be me, a bit of a ditz.