The Cubs Always Win in Dementialand

What I’m about to say is even more shocking if you consider I am a St. Louis Native and forever obligated to root for the Cardinals. In fact, one of my vivid memories about the day my Grandma passed away was that we had the Cardinals game on in her hospital room. We knew she was leaving us, but my family didn’t want to miss the game. (And I guarantee you that my Grandma would have thought it was weird if we had turned the game off just because she was in the final stages of her life.)

Here goes…

I must tell you that I am happy that the Chicago Cubs are in the playoffs. Do not tell my family this. I may not be welcome at family Christmas anymore. At the very least, someone might spit in my green bean casserole. I do hope the Cardinals beat them in the National League Division Series, of course, but I’m glad the Cubs made it this far.

I have a thing about rooting for the underdog. It’s most prominent during college basketball’s March Madness when I sit in front of three TVs at once in our living room (thanks to my husband for the NCAA Tournament TV arrangement) hoping to see a 16-seed beat a 1-seed, but I do it with other sports as well. From that perspective, it’s not all bad to see the Cubs in the play-offs.

There’s something else as well, though. There’s another reason I smile because the Cubs have the 3rd best reason in baseball in 2015. It’s because of a guy I know whose name is Paul.

Paul has always been a Cubs fan, and he’s been through losing season after losing season, never allowing his loyalty to waver. Something odd happened a few years that made Paul’s family realize that perhaps Paul was having some difficulties.

They’d walk into the family room and see Paul watching a Cubs game on TV, just like he had done for most of his life. They would ask who was winning.

“Cubs,” he would respond. However, they’d glance at the TV and realize that the Cubs weren’t winning. It was the first dementia symptom that they noticed. They told friends that they were concerned about Paul–because he thought the Cubs were winning when they weren’t. Friends shrugged them off. Paul probably just wasn’t paying attention. Or maybe it was something with his eyesight. His wife, however, knew there was a problem. She was frustrated when their family doctor wouldn’t listen.

About six months later, she became more concerned. She would walk into the family room when Paul was watching a game and ask who was winning. He’d tell her the Cubs were winning, but she’d glance at the TV and realize that not only were the Cubs not winning, they weren’t even playing. Maybe it was the Cardinals and the Pirates. Or the Phillies and the Mets. But not the Cubs. At this point, Paul was showing other symptoms. He had gotten lost driving in their small town. He seemed more irritable and got his feelings hurt more easily. Furthermore, he no longer wanted to spend time with friends. He preferred to sit home alone and isolated himself.

After he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he continued to spend a lot of time in front of the TV watching sports. When his family asked who was winning, he would tell them that the Cubs were…except now it wasn’t always baseball. Maybe it was hockey, basketball, or football. He once insisted that the Cubs were winning a 4×100 relay.

His wife told me that this used to break her heart. Paul had been a loyal and knowledgeable sports fan. Now he couldn’t even tell if the Cubs were winning, or playing, or even if he was watching baseball. Over time, she developed a new perspective. She stopped correcting him. In fact, she would smile and act pleased when the Cubs were winning. Sometimes she went as far as to cheer for them, even when they weren’t playing.

She told me, “The Cubs don’t win a lot in the real world. He deserves this.”

I guess the Cubs always win in Dementialand. And last night Dementialand wasn’t all that different from the world most of us live in. The Cubs beat the Cardinals, 8 to 6.

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