After returning from lunch yesterday, Kate and I took a moment for a break at home before the arrival of the sitter. A few minutes before Mary arrived, Kate walked into the kitchen with her iPad tucked under her arm and carrying her cup. She was obviously ready to leave for Panera or Barnes & Noble. I told her that I was going to the Y and run some errands. She quickly, but meekly like a child, said, “Can I come with you?” I told her that Mary would be staying with her. She accepted that without a problem. It wasn’t long before the doorbell rang. Kate said, “Who is that?” I told her it was probably Mary who was coming in at that very moment. We both greeted her, and Kate seemed fine. Then I said I was going to the Y. Once again, Kate asked if she could go with me. I told her that Mary would be with her. She said, “What if I want something to eat?” I reminded her that Mary has a card she can use at Panera to buy whatever she wants. Again, she seemed to accept that without any questions. Then I left.
When I returned, she and Mary were in the family room with the TV on. Kate was working jigsaw puzzles on her iPad. Mary left. I walked over to Kate’s chair and kneeled so that I could look directly in her eyes. I told her I was glad to see her and that I loved her. She said, “I love you too even if I don’t know who you are.” I said, “I think you really know who I am, but you have trouble remembering my name. Isn’t that right?” She looked very puzzled but didn’t speak. I said, “You do remember that I am your husband, don’t you?” She didn’t answer. Then I said, “Knowing my name is not very important. You do know that you have known me a long time. We’ve been married 55 years, but it’s not important that you remember that. The important thing is that we love each other and that we can enjoy our lives together.” She nodded. The way she had responded or failed to respond to my questions makes me think that the connection with my name is almost gone and that her awareness of the nature of our relationship (that is, that I am her husband) is disappearing as well. I really do take comfort in the fact that we will still be able to enjoy our lives together, but there is no denying that we are in the process of a significant change. I didn’t need anything to convince me of that, but there was still more to come.
We went out for our Friday night pizza. When we got home, she wanted to brush her teeth. She stopped as she entered our family room and said, “I’ll follow you.” This is the second time recently that she has done this. She just didn’t remember how to get there. We went back to the family room after brushing our teeth. I turned on the evening news. She worked on her iPad.
About thirty minutes passed, when she asked for my help with her puzzle. She has been doing this more frequently in the past few weeks, especially the past week. She had completed all but 4 pieces of a 16-piece puzzle. Before I could do anything to help, she said, “Just complete it for me.” I did, and helped her get another puzzle. She was having a problem figuring out how to do it. This is a new problem.
I was seated across from her writing this post when I noticed that she was sitting in her chair with a confused look. I decided it would be good for her to take a break and enjoy something more passively. I suggested we go to our bedroom and watch a little of Les Miserables. She liked the idea.
She was quickly engaged and enjoying herself. It was just as though this were the first time she had seen it, not the fifth time in five weeks. We took a break at the intermission. She asked, “Where are we?” I said, “Knoxville, Tennessee.” In a moment, she asked, “If someone asked me where I live, what should I say?” I said, “I would say that I live in Knoxville, Tennessee. We’ve lived here a long time. I was an English teacher and then a school librarian before retiring and serving nineteen years as our church’s librarian.”
That led her to talk again about our good fortune to find each other and how much we enjoyed the same things. I told her I felt the same way. Then I took my shower, and she put on her night gown. When we were ready for the next half, she was tired and went to bed. It was before 9:00, so I stayed up a while. I offered to turn off the TV, but she said she was enjoying listening to the music. In a few minutes, I got in bed with her. She kept repeating how much she liked the fact that we both liked things like this and could share them together. This is something she has picked up from me. I was glad to see that it must have had an impact. Otherwise, she would never have remembered it. I am especially glad that we have had the good fortune to share a love for this particular musical. I don’t think I would have ever played it five times in five weeks were it not for her, but I have enjoyed it every bit as much as she.
I was glad we were able to end the day on a high note. I still feel sad about her increasing confusion and loss of of memory, but I treasure her moments of pleasure. They are mine as well.