Our son Kevin and his family are coming for a visit tomorrow. Kevin comes about three times a year, but this will be the first time the rest of his family has been here in five years. That and the fact that our lives could be very different the next time they are here makes this one special.
Since I learned about their visit, I have periodically told Kate they would be with us. She is always happy to learn they are coming, but her memory doesn’t allow her to retain it. For the first time, I have been more mindful that dementia doesn’t just remove the past from one’s memory. It also prevents the joy of anticipating the future.
I don’t think I am alone in failing to think about this loss. I’ve read a lot of books by caregivers and people with dementia. I’ve also been in touch with a large number of others via social media, especially Twitter and Facebook. I’ve heard many stories about forgetting people, important events, and the difficulty with conversation because it depends so much on memory. They all deal with the past. I don’t recall any that dealt with the loss of the future.
Everyone derives pleasure from anticipation. The first thing that comes to my mind is my father’s excitement as he approached his 100th birthday. He started talking about it and making preparations as soon as his 99th birthday party was over. Our lives are filled with anticipation of things, big and small. – the birth of a child, a teenager’s getting a driver’s license, college graduations, weddings, reunions, vacations, anniversaries, weekends, starting a new job, moving to a new home, many different sources entertainment (concerts by a favorite singer or group, a popular Broadway play, the latest Star Wars movie), and visits with family and friends.
Looking back, I can’t recall when Kate lost this ability. I know it’s been a long time. I regret that she hasn’t been able to experience the joy of knowing she will see her grandchildren tomorrow or other special moments like our being at Casa Bella for music nights. I am glad, however, that she is still able to experience things in the moment. Those have been very important to us. In fact, they have made the difference in how I feel about the way things are going.
The ability to anticipate the future does not always bring pleasure. The only good thing about knowing Kate’s future, and that has been very important, is that it has caused us to make the very best of our time together. I am glad she is unable to anticipate or imagine what her life will be like in the days ahead. That’s something I don’t like to think about, but it’s hard to escape.