I see myself as a traveller. I have always loved to travel, taking my first overseas holiday at the age of 4, which was pretty big back in the early 50s, when people didn’t jet around like nowadays.
Although I have fond memories of some wonderful trips made with great friends, much of my travelling has been done alone. I have always been fiercely independant and confidant traveller, so a short 3 day trip to Queensland, over the weekend was not something to work up a sweat over.
When flying, I try always to book an aisle seat – it makes it easy to get in and out to stretch my legs and get to the bathroom easily, without having to disturb people, who are often, either, asleep or engrossed in movies and it doesn’t bother me to move for those sitting in the inner seats, seeing it as a reminder to keep moving. It also makes it easy for me to stand up and access my bag, if I have inadvertently left something in it, that I need during the flight (a regular occurrance, nowadays). So imagine my surprise to finding a lady sitting in “my seat” next to her husband. I politely pointed this out and added that her seat must be next to the window, as “D” was the aisle seat, but she wasn’t having any of it and her husband was agreeing with her. Frantically I began looking round for a steward, or someone else to confirm that I was right and she had to move. The line of people needing to get to their seats was building and I could feel myself starting to panic, as I tried to put my bag up into the overhead locker. The young woman behind me, assisted me with my bag and asked if I was Ok, and to my horror, I could feel my eyes filling with tears saying, “I have dementia, I always sit there, she’s in my seat – I can’t sit over there” – me, who never makes a big fuss, who rolls with the punches, who goes with the flow…and all those other peaceful images!!!!
The offending women, sitting in “my” seat, just shook her head, as she and her husband stood up, took my elbow and moved me through to the window seat. I sat trembling and fighting the tears, feeling angry, frustrated and humiliated for a good part of the 90 minute trip. It was the worst flight of my life!!!!
Yes, the woman was a pain in the proverbial, and yes, she was wrong, BUT my response to a niggly little situation was what hurt me most. Is this how it is now? I know change in personality is part of the dementia, but I never expected to be able to see it so clearly in myself. I’ve always told myself the real me will always be “in there” – but this wasn’t me…not the me that I have ever been. Will it be this change that stops me, rather than the failing cognitions that I expected? I write this with tears streaming down my face and for the first time since I adjusted to my diagnosis, I feel truly afraid.