It is almost, no totally, impossible for me to imagine what it would be like if I couldn’t recall any of my past life, let alone what happened just a few minutes ago; and, as well not knowing, indeed not caring, about where I am and what I’m wearing! And yet I try at every visit to connect with Dorothy, my wife of sixty-two years, in some way, with some words and activities. Miraculously and quite unexpectedly and only on some days, there is that beautiful touch of a connection and we both, I am sure, feel that frisson, if only momentarily. Yesterday it persisted for most of my visit and we had a smooth and happy time together.
And yet, when I said I had to go she happily kissed me farewell and, very likely, reverted to her own ‘moment’ and hardly noticed my departure. Of course, I can’t know how she felt. I only know that as I cycled home, once again I felt saddened by this curse of Alzheimer’s. I know I should be pleased that for Dorothy and almost me, it was a good visit, and it is selfish of me to be forever miserable about how I feel. Putting these thoughts down on paper (so to speak) at least allows me to vent my innermost feelings which I hope might resonate with some other blokes (and heaven knows there must be thousands of us!) whose wife, sister, mother is also separated from them in a residential care home. It is my way to remain grounded, and I am personally so grateful that Dorothy is cared for in, what must be, the best possible environment. It is so good there that I feel as though I am almost at home there myself, although I’m not ready yet to move in!
We were treated to a very special ‘High tea’ yesterday afternoon, a new a fortnightly treat for that group of a dozen or so who share the same living area in the dementia wing. At the home there is a private dining room available for family gatherings, special celebratory meals and the like, and the ‘high tea’ was held there. The room is located on the top floor with a sunny outlook through large glass windows, and the long dining table was laid out with tiered cake plates, club sandwiches, scones and cream and a variety of tasty cakes and slices and, would you believe, fine china teacups and plates! What a different and happy little interlude, and not because it was someone’s birthday – it was simply a special treat for everyone there, and even more so, being in that light and airy dedicated private dining area.
After that, Dorothy and I did some picture colouring (well, mostly me!) in one of the common areas on another floor of the building. A nice quiet time for us and a change for her and, I like to think, it is a help for the staff to have one less person for a while. Of course, we walked inside and outside the building (but not in the street – yet) and even visited another couple who are residents in a different part of the building, so I stayed longer than usual. If I am cycling I have learned to not leave at the school closing times because we are right next door to a school and the traffic at that time is not conducive to safe pedalling for an old wobbly, as I think I’ve mentioned before!
Now I’m home alone again and off goes my imagination, remembering all the happy times of the past, trying to reconcile that with the way it is now; learning to accept that is so hard. Not being able to share our past common experiences, as some of my readers know, is the most difficult and gut-wrenching truth of the moment. I know the only solution is to find enjoyment, fulfilment, in the moment of now. I can still imagine the past and remain forever grateful for it; but now I must learn to live with, but apart from, Dorothy. Now, right now, because it is the most important moment I can imagine.