This is part of the test. Three small words I'm not likely to forget, but he did. I asked him as I drove on Wednesday if he was nervous and he said no. I thought that was probably a good thing. That was before we arrived at the neurologist's office, the car stopped at a red light at the intersection of Madison Avenue and Turtle Road in Morristown. I made a joke about how many times I've driven this road and had never noticed the name of Turtle Road. He laughed, even though it wasn't funny, because the hospital, which we had just driven by, is where so much has happened in our marriage. He said, "It's because it's a little road for little turtles", and the traffic light stayed red. I added more to the beginnings of our Turtle Road legend by describing how droves of turtle families have lived here since George Washington slept here, at his winter headquarters. They try to cross the road, but many of them do not make it to the other side. (Without looking back at the title, do you remember the three words?)
The light changed to green but I did not move, as if by doing so, I could stop time. But it was the day before Thanksgiving, mid-day, and road rage had already begun. We passed a bank with a large digital clock which also showed the air temperature, 56 degrees Fahrenheit. As if he were a child afraid of needles and going to the doctor, or a beloved pet on the way to eternity at the vet's office, I continued the turtle story. (If you're bored, throw a BALL to your dog.) The turtles do not fear our large machinery; they put their trust in being slow and small, stalwart even. There is, on this Turtle Road, without a turtle crossing sign, an element of safety in numbers. A group of turtles is called a bale, unless it is a group of unborn turtle babies, then it is a clutch. So are you thinking of hay and how to shift gears in a car? (Without looking back, do you remember the second word?)
The neurologist was kindly, compassionate, and started by calling my husband the wrong name. I had been filling out the numerous forms and just said, "Please, he's confused enough, don't change his name on him, especially now." Later, I thought perhaps it was part of the test but it wasn't, just a tired doctor probably thinking about where he would be spending Thanksgiving this year. He was a good listener, which is high on my list of qualities doctors should have. He said input from family is important, then told my husband, "Your wife cannot help you with this next part." So I made the zipped lips sign and watched. I would be less than honest if I said the experience wasn't sad in a way that immediately made what's left of my soul ache. I have an extensive collection of American flags; I use them in my art work, have even hung them as curtains, plus was wearing a glittery FLAG pin on my coat lapel. (None of this was helpful. He could only remember the first word.)
You might think someone who worked most of his adult life at an Environmental Education Center, was in charge of large events, one being The Festival of Trees held every year from mid-November to mid-December, someone who in retirement was on The Shade Tree Commission and Great Swamp Watershed Committee, someone who plants trees and never prunes them, might remember the third word, especially after seeing all the TREE damage photographs from the storm. You would be wrong. The doctor deftly said this and that, told me to personally call him after the MRI and bloodwork, temporary diagnosis being Memory Loss. Ball, flag, tree.