Remembering Texas

Although Kate has always valued her Texas roots, it has never been as significant as it has been in recent years. Part, maybe most, of this feeling for her home state is tied to our reflections of the past as we get to our senior years. I know of lots people who find themselves reconnecting with friends from their childhood and sharing old memories of their time together. I suspect that Kate’s affection for Texas also relates to her Alzheimer’s. Like other people with dementia, she lost her short-term memory quickly. Now she retains only long-term memory, and most of that is gone as well. The fact that she is a Texan has stuck with her though she sometimes forgets her birthplace and has to ask me.

After returning from a trip to Texas several years ago, Kate’s feeling for the state got a significant boost. It wasn’t long after we were home that I discovered she thought we had discussed and decided that we were moving back. At first, I thought I was the only one she said anything to. Soon friends were asking me about our move. At the time, I didn’t want to burst her bubble, but I also didn’t want to reinforce her thinking. I supported her desire and explained that I would enjoy living in Texas as well. I also told her it would be a while before we could make the move because there were a lot of things we had to do to get ready. I was hoping that her memory of a move would drift away like so many other things.

I was wrong, but I was successful in getting her to think the move would be sometime in the future. Gradually she said less and less about a move. During the past couple of years, she has rarely said anything about it. Now it is coming back. This time she is expressing it as a desire to live in Texas, not something we have decided to do.

I have been quite interested in how she has brought it up. It almost seems like a calculated way to spark my interest. For a while, she would say something like, “I know we aren’t planning to move to Texas, but do you think that could happen?” In the past few days, she has also gently brought up the subject. Yesterday afternoon at Barnes & Noble, she asked where we were. When I told her, she said, “So we’re not in Texas?” I told her we were in Tennessee. She paused and then said, “Where do you think we will end up?”

I told her that depended on a lot of things, that we might stay right here in Knoxville. I explained that we were happy here, like our home, and were comfortable getting around the city which offered a lot of the things to do. Then I added that a lot might depend on our needs as we got older. I suggested that if our needs became significantly greater, we might move to Texas. I reminded her that our son Kevin has spent his whole career working with seniors and has access to all the resources that seniors need. She was pleased to hear that.

I must have been bolstered by her response because I mentioned a possible trip to Texas. Our granddaughter graduates from high school in June. I would really like for us to attend, but I have felt it is very unlikely. I considered our trip to Texas for Thanksgiving to have been our last visit. At the moment, I am keeping an open mind though I still think it is doubtful. One of my memories of our last visit was that she didn’t respond to being in Texas the way I expected. It didn’t seem to mean anything. She didn’t recognize anything and never knew where we were. I am torn now and will probably be the same way when I have to make a commitment to go or stay here. I definitely don’t want to deprive her of one more trip home. It’s just too early for me to make that decision.

There is one thing in the back of my mind that might tip the scale. It’s the apocryphal story of a man who pays daily visits to the nursing home to see his wife who doesn’t remember him. Someone asks, “Why do you visit everyday if she can’t remember you?” He answers, “Because I remember her.” As I consider that story, I think that even if she couldn’t full appreciate the trip, I would know that I brought her back home one last time for a special moment with family.

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