Alzheimer’s Anecdotes, Chapter 18: Are You Smarter than a First Grader?

Trying to be smarter than a first grader is no joke when you have Alzheimer’s. This anecdote describes an incident that happened a few hours ago, shortly before Pam headed for bed. She was still on her feet, though her balance is getting ever more precarious, but she was in no shape to discuss, shall we say, existential philosophy.

Or much of anything, for that matter.

Her memory problems have continued to increase. That was expected, of course, and both of us appreciate the fact that she’s still able to consciously “own it”; her awareness of her own decline is acute. Both of us recently concluded, independently, that she doesn’t have all that long to live. Not that we’re picking a date like doctors are known to do when giving a diagnosis to a terminal patient; neither of us has the slightest clue as to exactly how long she’ll be able to hang in there. But we do see her continued struggle with her weight (attempting to keep it above 82 pounds), her ever increasing pain intensity levels, and her mental deterioration.

For example, when I leveled the refrigerator this evening (with her help), she asked, “How did you figure out it wasn’t level?” She had zero recall of my informing her, ten days ago, regarding that issue.

Even so, being a tad dense in my own right and often a bit behind the curve, I had to try reading the following email to her. My uncle had forwarded it, most of us know at least some of the proverbs, and it should have been funny.

Trust me; to my redhead, it wasn’t.

My wife was dog tired, a regular condition these days–she can’t stay up for more than a few hours at a time without paying the price–but beyond that, she no longer remembered a single proverb. If you can’t remember the original proverb, the six year old child’s completion of that proverb just isn’t all that hilarious.

FYI, here’s the text of the email.


A 1st grade school teacher had twenty-six students in her class. She presented each child in her classroom the 1st half of a well-known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb. It’s hard to believe these were actually done by first graders. Their insight may surprise you. While reading, keep in mind that these are first-graders, 6-year-olds, because the last one is a classic!

Note from Ghost: I have no idea why the proverb and response from Student #1 is missing.

2. Strike while the…bug is close.

3. It’s always darkest before…Daylight Saving Time.

4. Never underestimate the power of…termites.

5. You can lead a horse to water but…how?

6. Don’t bite the hand that…looks dirty.

7. No news is…impossible.

8. A miss is as good as a…Mr.

9. You can’t teach an old dog new…math.

10. If you lie down with dogs, you’ll…stink in the morning.

11. Love all, trust…me.

12. The pen is mightier than the…pigs.

13. An idle mind is…the best way to relax.

14. Where there’s smoke there’s…pollution.

15. Happy the bride who…gets all the presents.

16. A penny saved is…not much.

17. Two’s company, three’s…the Musketeers.

18. Don’t put off till tomorrow what…you put on to go to bed.

19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and…you have to blow your nose.

20. There are none so blind as…Stevie Wonder.

21. Children should be seen and not…spanked or grounded.

22. If at first you don’t succeed…get new batteries.

23. You get out of something only what you…see in the picture on the box.

24. When the blind lead the blind…get out of the way.

25. A bird in the hand…is going to poop on you.

And the WINNER and last one!

26. Better late than…pregnant.


I still believe my wife is smarter than a first grader, but she doesn’t always remember as well as a first grader. Fortunately, she’s definitely able to appreciate the good things in life, such as the walk-in whirlpool massage bathtub I just ordered from Amazon. “It’s not going to be long,” she told me, “before you’ll have to set me in there, fill the tub, wash me, the works.”

That part will be an honor, sweetheart. Building the raised platform for the tub, wrestling the plumbing connections, and working out the electrical hookup…those things are what will make the bathtub installation project interesting. Seeing you sigh with relief when the bubbly warm water eases your screaming muscles and joints…that will be nothing but pleasure.

4 thoughts on “Alzheimer’s Anecdotes, Chapter 18: Are You Smarter than a First Grader?

  1. I know the feeling about not having any idea how much longer we have with them. We just need to treasure the time we have left to be with them. Dennis and I had a conversation about some old TV shows. He did not remember as many as I did, and he has been around longer so he should have.

  2. Dennis not remembering certain old TV shows rang a bell. Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Maureen, once wrote about the first time the family as a whole knew the former President had a serious problem. They were talking about a movie he’d made (I forget which one) over the dinner table and he admitted he had no recall whatsoever of making that movie.

  3. Ghost, it hurts my heart to hear about Pam’s decline. I know it’s inevitable, but – well, you know…..

    The first graders answers were hilarious. Did Pam get a kick out of them?

  4. No, Sha, Pam did not get a kick out of them. That was sort of the point of this post: They literally meant nothing to her. Not funny.

    There is a lot more to her decline that what’s listed here–the extreme bone loss in her shoulders, for example–but our readers don’t really need to hear all of it.

    And yet she still shows flashes of her native brilliance on a fairly regular basis. She understands the situation with her meds (which she has turned over to me to handle 100% now), accurately adjusts the window openings versus the outside heat when I’m not awake to handle that, feeds the bunnies more days than not, counsels Allen (our part time hired hand), worries (unnecessarily) about my health, for the most part disciplines herself to get down a reasonable amount of calories each day, and knows immediately when her blood sugar levels are off.

    Helluva redhead, without a question.

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