Kate, Always the English Teacher

At the time of Kate’s diagnosis, we were told that her greatest strengths were likely to stick with her the longest while her weaknesses would deteriorate more quickly. That has proven to be true for her. She has always been geographically challenged. Getting lost when driving to places that should have been familiar was an early sign of a problem. Among her greatest strengths is an ability to handle herself in a variety of social situations with different types of people. I have mentioned many times how well she gets along when we are around friends and strangers. Even when she can’t remember people, she is able to engage in brief conversations as if she did. That has enabled us to remain socially active longer than I expected.

There is another strength that I’ve never mentioned. It is also one that hasn’t disappeared. She got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and taught English for three years before taking a break when our children were born. When they were school age she completed a master’s in library science. Throughout her career, she has always thought of herself as an English teacher. Our grandchildren could testify to that. They have been corrected by “Nan” concerning their use of the English language many times.

She doesn’t limit her corrections to the grandchildren. I am often called to task as well. Even now, she frequently corrects me about one thing or another. If she were reading my writing I know she would have many edits. These days her corrections usually involve my use of specific words that she believes do not capture precisely what I intended or should have said. For example, this morning after she remembered someone’s name, I said, “You’re right.” She said, “I am right sometimes.” Thinking I was supporting her, I said, “You are frequently right.” Then she responded. “It would have been better if you had said, “usually.” I said, “You’re right again.”

I make a point of this because it’s a good illustration of how much her brain is still working and working correctly. Once in a while she says something that surprises both of us. When that happens, she sometimes says, “Don’t count me out yet.” The most appropriate response is, “I won’t.” I know, however, there are many times when I don’t think she will remember something or be able to perform some task. The easy thing is to believe is that she can’t remember anything, do anything, or understand anything. It’s much harder to recognize that even this long after her diagnosis (7 years this past January), she still possesses a good bit of knowledge and skill. I think I’m very good when it comes to recognizing this intellectually. I need to work harder to put that knowledge into action as I care for her during this most challenging time of her life.

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