Today, Dorothy’s care home organised an afternoon entertainment by a clever ventriloquist-puppeteer. I arrived after the show had started to see Dorothy in the front row, totally absorbed with a smile a mile wide! I quietly sat at the back until after the show, then disclosed my presence with the suggestion we go for a walk together. She happily greeted me, I reminded her I was Bill, her husband and she responded with a lovely welcoming kiss! Remarkably, there’s still a remnant of our love tucked away there, but no immediate remembrance of the show she’d just experienced; clearly, I’m still a popular boy, though!
I remarked to her how everyone seemed to enjoy the show; but she didn’t recall any of it, at all. How amazing is this Alzheimer’s! Recognition and recall of any event in Dorothy’s past is patchy and has been so for several years now. No wonder, then, it is such a joy to me whenever there is even a glimmer of who I am or was; whether she ‘knows’ me or not is less important than seeing, and feeling, that she is deriving some pleasure from my presence, now, and that’s what keeps me coming back for more!
As some of my readers already well know, having a partner living apart in a care home always results in an emotional load on the one still at home; separation is tough and is a constant burden. I think I am finally coming to terms with its permanency and have learned to ‘accept what I can’t change and enjoy what is still there’ even if what we have today is a million smiles away from where we used to be, just a few short years ago. That recognition made me pause and think about all those families who have suffered trauma in all those awful fires and floods recently. They know, all too well, the real agonies of physical separation, not only in some tragic cases of a family death, but also the loss of their homes and possessions. I can only pray that they will feel the outpouring of support for them and that they find solace and strength to cope with the heartache of such devastating conditions. My life’s disturbance is but small in comparison.
The way forward for me, and I suggest to other partners of those with Alzheimer’s, is accepting what I can’t change, to live today as fully as I can and move onwards having learned from the past, but not be entirely defined by it. For Dorothy, learning from the past is not an option, and living today is enough. That’s why my visits count, maybe as a meaningful link, but always good for that ‘moment’; which means that I need to be emotionally stable and retain a healthy, happy disposition. Like the fires’ victims, in a small way, that’s not easy!
Perhaps, as we’ve recently been reminded by an old Goon song, we should “Always look on the bright side!”. That’s what I try to do but, as my kids’ might say, “Look who’s talking!”.