An older female and middle aged male sit on a couch watching football, the man looks at the woman and holds a pendant in his hand

Football and Benchmarking Our Alzheimer's Journey

Recently, the New Orleans Saints lost another game in a disappointing year. Tom Brady and his band of Tampa Bay Buccaneers had performed yet another miraculous Monday night comeback that left Saints fans wondering when this difficult season would end.

The only Saints fan in my house had no idea what had just happened, which may have been a good thing anyway.

Pro footfall fans all around

Watching professional football has been one of my joys since I was a mere lad in Los Angeles. Seasons marked the years and decades as my Rams alternated between good and bad and leaving and coming back to town.

Football was also the primary way that I connected with Mattie, my mother-in-law. Even though we rooted for different teams, it was always a topic of conversation with her.

We attended Saints games in New Orleans and Buffalo together. Did I care if the Saints won or lost? No, not really, but it was fun to be with someone who did. There is never anything like being at a game in person, and this was another way that we bonded over the gridiron.

A true sports fanatic

Mattie was probably a bigger fan than I have been. She would religiously get the Sunday paper and mark it up, circling games for future viewing.

It wasn't just football. It was any sport, really. Softball, gymnastics, tennis, figure skating: if it was on and they were keeping score, she was watching. I could always count on some sporting event blaring in her room. Games were our connection from 2012, when we all moved in together full-time, until recently.

Football and benchmarking Alzheimer's

The past few years have changed things dramatically, though. As Mattie's Alzheimer's disease has progressed, her ability to follow and discuss games has digressed. Actually, these games have become my way of understanding how she is affected. They are the way that I have "benchmarked" her worsening condition.

Four years ago, she still knew when the Saints were playing ahead of time. These games were a part of her schedule.

Three years ago, I had to remind her, but she still knew the players, like Drew Brees. She still would squeal like a seal when they would score a touchdown or win a game.

Last year, she could tell that the Saints were playing but had trouble following the game. Now, she can't tell me the score, who the Saints are on the field, or if they won or lost after watching the game.

Benchmarking Alzheimer's changes

Circling back to the recent Monday night football game. I sat there with her and felt alone like I was watching the game alone.

I imagine she felt the same way, but I am not really sure what she thought or felt. When it looked like the Saints were about to win, I actually started pulling for them, for her sake. I thought they were down one fan because of her disease, and I could make up for her in some odd way.

As the game ended, I looked at her and told her that the Saints had lost, and I got very little response. I started wondering how many more games we would be able to watch together and if our football conversations were officially over. Was this season of our life together now a final? Alzheimer's is robbing me of my football buddy.

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