I scanned the road as I drove down Highway 105, searching for my jelly vendor. The gorgeous faux-spring weather seemed likely enough to bring a roadside vendor out to play. I certainly hoped so, because my sweet tooth was aching for jelly like Mamaw used to make (although she never made mayhaw) slathered all over a biscuit.
I told you about finding FatFrog’s lip-smacking-good mayhaw jelly a couple of years ago, but maybe you never read that. If you want to know what a “mayhaw” is, click that link. Today, I was in luck. Mr. and Mrs. FatFrog were set up at an intersection. She was working sudoku puzzles while he waved at every single car that passed. I swerved right in and screeched to a halt.
After we howdeyed and shook, I reminded them that I had visited them before and blogged about them. Mr. FatFrog said, “Well, thank you for that. We don’t have a computer, so we never saw it. But, our family told us about it.” Indeed, several of their family members came in to comment on that post.
When I mentioned that I was probably going to blog about them again, Mrs. FatFrog looked up from her puzzle. She smiled at me sweetly and said, “If you do then tell them that the FatFrog lady has Alzheimer’s.”
I looked into the intelligent eyes, and happy face, of a woman about my age. “You’re kidding, right?” I said hopefully. She looked perfectly healthy to me.
Mrs. FatFrog shook her head no. She was totally serious. Terror struck my heart as I looked at her. I joke when I lose my keys that I “have Alzheimer’s,” but in truth there is no chronic disease that frightens this storyteller more (not a single one).
“How old were you when you were diagnosed?” I asked, hoping that she was really a well-preserved 70 year old. This just doesn’t happen to people my age.
“I was 54,” she said. She told me she had been a math teacher in a middle school (which shows right there that she was always a pretty special person). One day, she couldn’t do an ordinary math problem … and it got worse. That’s when she went to the doctor and was diagnosed.
Her husband told me that they hoped that someday soon the Alzheimer’s Association walks will get as much attention as the walks for cancer so that money can be raised to find a cure for this insidious disease. Mrs. FatFrog agreed. She said, “I like to tell people about it, because it can happen to anyone and if you think you have it you should be tested.”
Mr. and Mrs. FatFrog are retired now, and they sell mayhaw jelly on the roadside as a hobby. They stay busy, and she does sudoku puzzles to keep her brain active. In the summer, they will go to England to visit their daughter … and the very first grand-baby.
They lamented that the child wouldn’t be born in Texas. I snickered, “Oh, just send a jar of dirt for them to put under the hospital table and the kid can say he was ‘born over Texas soil.'” Mrs. FatFrog laughed, turned to her husband, and said, “Help me remember that.”
“This has its perks,” she joked. “When I goof up, I just remind folks I have Alzheimer’s and they forgive me just about anything.”
She must have seen that I could barely manage a crooked smile to hide my fear.
“It’s really not too bad,” she said. Then she leaned forward and peered over her glasses at me. “I actually do very well on just a little medication … and I know why. It’s a God thing,” she whispered. “I’ve got more work to do right here before I’m gone.”
We said our goodbyes and I came away with two jars of mayhaw jelly … and something to think about. I realized that part of the reason this woman seemed so healthy is her optimistic attitude … and her faith that she has a reason to live.
I don’t talk about religion much on this blog. What I believe, as Hopalong Cassidy might have said, “comes under the heading of my business.” It doesn’t matter to me what you believe … that’s between you and your Maker (or if you are an Atheist, it’s between you and the gatepost over there). This perspective works whether one is Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Wiccan, a Scientologist, a Raëlian (or any one of the many different religions out there), or even if one is an Agnostic or Atheist. It’s universal.
Mrs. FatFrog taught me that if you wake up every morning sure that there is a reason that you are walking the planet then you can muster the optimism to face any adversity. Some days, it might be difficult to see exactly what that reason might be, but we have to believe we live for a purpose.
I’m going to chew on that with my biscuits and jelly.