Wondering About The Future

Kate and I are fortunate that we are able to get along so well. We enjoy life and each other. At the same time, I believe I have also noted that she has had a gradual decline in her memory, primary short term but also long term memory.

Occasionally, I have raised a question about the future. For a long time, I was concerned about when to let the children know. Then I wrestled about when to tell others. I have told a number of people over the past year. I first told our pastor because he had noticed something different about Kate. Next was (I believe) Ken and Virginia right after Dad’s 100th birthday. In January of this year I told the children. After returning from New Zealand, I told Tom and Carl. This summer I told my staff. This fall I told the Greeleys and a couple at Chautauqua friends. I also told one of the church secretaries at church.

I am still wondering about telling two of Kate’s cousins. I am thinking of doing so in January. When I tell them, I will also feel the need to tell Naomi Richardson. She was the woman who had been a long-time friend her Kate’s mother. She also worked as a local manager of her mother’s everyday affairs including supervision of in-home caregivers.

More than wondering about when to tell people, I also wonder what life will be like this time next year. I am already looking carefully at our travel plans with the anticipation that it will be more difficult for us to travel after next summer. Right now the only foreign travel I have planned is to Switzerland in May. I think that could be our last foreign trip. In addition, we are planning a trip to New York in June with Jesse and her boys and Kevin and Taylor. The only other trip planned at this point is our annual trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake and Chautauqua at the end of July and the first week of August.

One reason I write on this now is my reflection on the very slow decline that Kate has experienced. I see that many things are more difficult for her now than in the past. One of those is in short term memory. She forgets things very quickly. It is as though it goes in and out of her brain at almost the same time. The other thing I notice is how difficult it is for her to use her computer.

I have just taken a 10-minute break to help Kate. She had been trying to send online Christmas cards while I was writing today’s journal entry. She told me she was going to take a break, that she was just too frustrated right now. I told her I would help her later in the day. I had also volunteered to do so after we returned from lunch, but once again, she tried to do this independently but just couldn’t do so. She keeps making simple mistakes that prevent her getting any cards out. These are not isolated incidents but very common ones.

A few minutes ago, she walked into the kitchen. She was trying to zip a jacket to wear outside where she is now pruning her plants. This is her therapy. She begins to go stir crazy in the house all day working on her computer or doing jigsaw puzzles. She started pruning months before Dad’s 100th birthday in early 2013 and hasn’t stopped since. In fact, the shrubs never did grow back fully during the summer. Though now is a good time to prune, they don’t need it. It simply gives her something to do that doesn’t frustrate her.

Back to the jacket. She entered the kitchen trying to zip the jacket. She gave up in frustration and asked me if I would zip it. When I tried to do so, I noticed that she had her jacket on inside out. This, too, is a common occurrence. It is increasingly difficult for her to differentiate such things. Once she put the jacket on the right way, I zipped it up, and she went outside to prune. In a moment, she called to me asking where her new clippers were. She was referring to the clippers we bought at Lowe’s on the way home from lunch. I know these must be the 7th or 8th ones I have bought for her since the beginning of spring. We both looked for them. She finally found them in the garage. She had put them in a good place, but not the usual place for them. She was pleased that she had found them and not I. Each time I solve a problem for her it is a setback for her. When she is able to solve her own problems, she feels better.

When we were at lunch today, I mentioned a couple of things to which she asked, “How do you remember those things?” She is amazed when people remember simple things because she cannot do so. Along this line she continues to give higher praise to others and to performances than I believe justified. This is a good quality, but I take it as a clear indication of her inability to differentiate the good from the bad or better said, what is good and what is outstanding. These and other things make me wonder what will she be like a year from now.

One final note. She expresses things that confirm that she doesn’t realize how far along she is. Last night, for example, while she was telling me about her plans for several books of family pictures she is working on, she said there was no hurry. There is plenty of time. I encouraged her thinking and told her she could just work at her own speed. There is no deadline. My prediction is that she will never complete any one of the three (I believe) she is working on. I am sure she will experience increasing frustration trying to work on the computer. That will surely mean that she cannot finish this project that she values so much. This is sad.