People Make a Difference

I have often mentioned the importance of our eating out as a way of minimizing the social isolation that is often a side effect of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. That and our regular visits to Panera and Barnes & Noble go along way to keep us socially active. The beauty of these social encounters is that they are not lengthy ones that place any special demands on Kate. One might think of them as very superficial and unimportant, but I have found them of significant value. Yesterday, we had three that were especially nice.

The first occurred at Panera. As Kate was getting something from the drink dispenser, I put our things down at the table where we often sit. I was opening Kate’s iPad and the jigsaw puzzle app when I noticed a young woman with her laptop at another table. We exchanged “good morning” greetings. Then she told me that she had seen us a number of other times and was struck by what a loving couple we seemed to be. She had noticed my setting up Kate’s iPad, getting her a muffin, and helping her coming in and out of the restaurant. I thanked her and I told her that Kate and I have been married 55 years and about her Alzheimer’s. I hadn’t remembered seeing her before. It was a short encounter, but I was touched by her words and the way she expressed them. She probably doesn’t think did anything of importance. For me, it was an great way to start our day.

The second experience was having dinner with a couple with whom we have shared a table on several occasions at Casa Bella’s Broadway nights. They called on Monday and asked us to have dinner with them last night. Kate, of course, could not remember them, but I told her she would recognize them. Several times, before meeting them she had me repeat their names and try to remember them. It was impossible. It’s one of those times I try to imagine what it must be like for her, not remembering the names of anyone around her. It turned out to be a good evening. They are very easy to talk with, and Kate was not put on the spot in any way. They had remembered Kate’s drinking iced tea and brought her a box of tea to take home with her. We had a good time. I don’t believe they invited us thinking that they were doing something special for us. It was just a simple invitation for dinner, but it’s just one more uplifting social encounter.

We bumped into someone who stopped us on the way out. She had remembered me from my visits with Dad when he was in a nursing home. Her father sat at the table next to him. We often chatted, especially with her little boy. We talked with her family and her for about ten minutes. It turns out I have another connection to the woman’s husband. I had worked with his mother when her company was a client of mine quite a few years ago now. It’s been five years since I had seen her. She said her father, who was a good bit younger than my dad, is still there. It was another unanticipated encounter that was meaningful to me. Kate had not known the woman, so I know it didn’t mean much to her, but she enjoyed seeing her son. Children always brighten her day.

Once we were home, we watched a little of South Pacific. It was interesting to see that Kate was familiar with all of the music and some of the words. It was another good day and one that illustrates the power of both people and music.

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