“So long as I know it not, it hurteth mee not”. According to the The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, this phrase that we translate as “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” originated…wait for it…200 years before the founding of America, in 1576. The citation claims that its sister phrase is “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise”.
This phrase came to mind a few times in the visit today….for no reason aside from providence. What you don’t know can certainly hurt you (!)…so why did the wise sages of old talk like this and why did it stick this long? It can’t be an absolute truth because I can list you 100 things that contradict it. I know nothing about the true dangers of plucking nose hairs, but Google tells me it can cause an infection that can kill me in less than 24 hours. So what do we do with this phrase and how does it relate to my mom and the Sweet 17?
On one hand:
As I have said in the past, I am thankful for some of the bad memories mom was finally able to shed. Memories of loved ones dying. Memories of worrying about money. Memories about what to wear…all gone. They can no longer hurt her. She knows nothing of them any more.
On another hand:
Mom has apparently contracted the seemingly always available stomach flu. No formal diagnosis, mind you, but she has had a low grade temp the last couple days and today as I sat enjoying a quiet “conversation” with my ultra-pooped, sundownered mom, she erupted into a super-soaker-like vomit. I was at the edge of the splash zone, but fared better than her meal did that was just served. Mom didn’t freak out nearly as much as I would have, being covered in her own sick. She didn’t even “know” it was icky….it didn’t hurt her a bit. The cleanup, on the other hand, she was less thrilled with as usual. She still remembers that modesty is a good thing and people trying to remove clothing against your will, even with yak on them, is a bad thing.
On the third hand (?):
The other three ladies at the table and the rest of the S17 didn’t seem to mind the waterworks and just kept eating. The nurses wisely (as always) snagged the food at the table away before the unknowing-of-the-danger-damsels ate said illness. Most in the room, oblivious to the show, were able to consume their life-giving food. For several of them, they really need every meal. Ms. E is perhaps 75 pounds and is very frail, although not necessarily extremely so for her 100+ age.
On the fourth hand (Can we just call them legs at this point?):
Mom’s roomie, who lost her memory nearly a decade ago via virus, not Alzheimer’s, has a pretty much blank slate in many ways. She has a laminated sheet by her bed that was likely drafted by a loving nurse or family member. The sheet is something of a Q&A for this sweet lady. It says:
Your name is (Sweet 17 Mrs. M)
You are here because of memory issues caused by a virus.
Your kids will visit often.
You grew up in (nearby town).
Your room is 105.
We love you.
This sheet answers the questions that this princess “doesn’t know”. Does it help her to know these things or hurt her not to know? Not particularly. She will forget as fast as she reads. She will also forget to worry about it. She just matter-of-factly asks us daily which room is hers and we say 105. She smiles and heads that way. Somehow she remembers the number all the way down the hall and she remembers what 105 looks like on her room plate…then she doesn’t.
On the close to last hand?:
Even the little amount of care giving I do is hard. While I wouldn’t wish Alzheimer’s on my worst enemy, it does somewhat explain why people are so quick to get turn off their brains with substance abuse. 🙁 It sounds so great on paper and promises great things such as the lack of stress, but it just cannot deliver on its promise…then makes things worse in the process with bad decisions and brain damage.
OK…this is truly the last hand/leg:
The more I study dementia, the more I see the importance of being tested or at least baselined. I haven’t done this yet and can certainly see the associated angst it would cause, but if I knew I would have this disease, I would change many, many things. I would line up my own care. I would teach better. I would downsize. I would hug my kids and my wife more. I would write that book. I would video myself for posterity. I think I would want to know. I know the science is not ideal in prediction in any sense, but if it appeared likely, I would act on the balance of the probability.
The abstract concepts of memory and knowledge are tricky subjects indeed in the Alzheimer’s/memory care world. Proverbs aren’t meant to be prescriptive (especially in this post), they are meant to depart some wisdom in certain circumstances…and they do here.
Hoping I am wrong about mom and she is fine after a good night sleep. Also hoping her pills “stuck” before the super- soaker was deployed or it may be a tiring night for her. 🙁
Stinkin’ disease. 🙁
(p.s. Thanks for the many likes and shares and hits on the Facebook page and the visits to digitalcornbread.com. I hope it exceeds expectations as it gets built out. 🙂 )