I was shocked at the replies I got. Most had something to do with a slap or a punch or a kick. Some of you friends are working out some serious anger issues. And I won't even mention what some of my dear sisters had in store for poor Eve, I'll just call it pent up rage from a lifetime of various pains and "monthly gifts". I'm just happy that it was only hypothetical. But there is a reason that I had been thinking about this question.
Earlier this year our family moved to Jamaica to be closer to Suzanne's dad. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a few years ago and the time had come that he could no longer manage his own affairs. We knew of his illness before we moved to Mexico so we made it a point to leave every 4 or 5 months to come check on his health and to see if "it was time yet". That day finally arrived earlier this year in January when we visited and saw that his health was quickly declining.
While all in the association of brothers are are struggling with one thing or another, I find this disease to be particularly crippling. It is not just that someone is a "little forgetful" or can't remember things. It is as if the brain is dying, bit by bit. It manifests itself in forgetfulness but that is by far the easiest of the symptoms to manage.
There are the hallucinations to deal with. My father in law worked construction all his life. Items of furniture were imagined to be equipment that needed to be moved; as a result we have many three-legged chairs in the house. And then there were the imaginary people. In his bedroom at night. On the sofa in the living room. In the chair I just sat in: "no, dad there's nobody sitting here, just me".
A particularly difficult aspect of the disease is something known as "sundowning". Each afternoon it was as if someone fed him espresso and Red Bull and then turned him loose. He would wander the house, insist that it was not his home and demand that we take him home immediately. Many times he would become angry even borderline violent because he would think we were trying to harm him. Knives, tools, any sharp object or anything which could become a weapon was locked away for safety; his and ours. Most nights he would not sleep, but he would roam the hallway looking for who knows what. Locking our room at night has become a norm lest we wake up to him standing over us in the middle of the night. Needless to say, for his own safety we have found it a necessity to keep dad in the house; a virtual prisoner in his own home.
When we lived in Florida we would often see on TV a "silver alert", a message that the police were looking for a lost senior, usually someone with memory loss. I remember I would think to myself: " how can you lose Grandma?" But now I know. A person with Alzheimer's can sound completely rational if you only talk to them for a minute or two. They can tell you they locked their keys in the car and are trying to get someplace. Can you help me? Who could say no to that sweet old man or lady? Most friends in the congregation did not even know that dad was sick as he was by nature a quiet man. He would come into the hall, sit in his seat and wait for the meeting to start. Some would come by and say hello, he would reply:" hi brother", or "hi sis". They would ask how he was and he'd say okay; they'd move on and all would seem well. But it was not. Deep inside his brain is slowly dying.
I have read that Alzheimer's usually does not kill the patient. They die from pneumonia or some other complication. Eventually the brain slows down to the point that they forget how to swallow, so they can't eat. Or there are problems with their breathing. Week by week it seems dad is regressing rapidly. There is a saying about Alzheimer's: "Once a man, twice a child". We have lived this for the past six months of our lives. There have been some funny moments, some cute moments too. Like when dad would just start dancing in the living room while he was watching TV. Or when he would wear one shoe and one sneaker with each on the wrong foot and you couldn't get him to change it. Or the time when he called us all together and said the electric bill was too high and we needed to keep the lights off; funny because he was the one turning them all on and then forgetting about them.
Early on before he had regressed so much dad would start doing something forget what it was in the middle of it and look around. We would help him complete whatever it was and he would realize he was forgetting things and simply say: "oh well, it's no fun getting old". The cute moments are all gone now. What is left ahead of us is just a painful eventuality. The man I knew as my father in law is for all purposes gone as he is no longer even aware of what goes on around him.
I have often asked myself if Adam and Eve could have seen what life was like today if they would have made the same decision. Their selfish choice has had such far reaching consequences that we are suffering for it daily. Their choice reminds me that it is always better to obey Jehovah as when we go against what he says it never works out well for us.
So when I think about what I would want to say or do to Adam and Eve, I have a pretty good idea. I would simply show them my father in law, a man who was once a healthy, vibrant, physically imposing man in his current state of health. I would show them the slow labored breaths that he draws. I would show them the scrapes and bruises from the falls he has taken. I would show them the shell of a man who can no longer bath or dress himself and simply sits in front of a TV all day, unaware of anything going on around him. Then I would look at them and simply say: " Do you see what you did to us? Thanks a lot for leaving us this wonderful inheritance".