Yesterday we were in two different social situations. The first was at lunch. The other at dinner. Kate responded to the two of them quite differently. Coincidentally, both occurred at Casa Bella.
We had lunch with a friend, Lillian, who is with the health foundation on whose board I served for nine years. Kate has met her on several occasions but can’t remember her. That didn’t matter. She got along quite well. We got off to a good start when we went inside the office to meet Lillian. We were warmly greeted by the receptionist whom I hadn’t seen in quite a while. That was followed by another staff member who passed through the reception area. We chatted briefly before Lillian came out. I should add that most of the staff is aware of Kate’s Alzheimer’s and have always been attentive and kind to her. When Lillian walked out, she was carrying a small basket of flowers for Kate who was thrilled to have them.
Although our lunchtime conversation involved a good bit of talk about the foundation, Lillian was good about speaking directly to Kate. That was especially true at the outset. That enabled Kate to feel she was an integral part of the conversation. I asked Lillian to tell us about her recent experience with neck surgery. One might think that it would have been difficult for Kate to follow and understand. I am sure that it was; however, she did grasp that Lillian was out of the office a while and that the recovery was not easy. Her eyes filled with tears as she reached out to take Lillian’s hand. Kate was touched.
A little later, Lillian invited us to an open house at a camp for deaf children supported by the foundation. She explained to Kate that we had paid for a number of children to attend. Kate was touched by that and wants to go.
Except for the few times she picked up or pointed to her glass of tea and asked if it was hers, an observer might not have recognized that she has Alzheimer’s. Lunch was a good experience for her.
Dinner was quite different. I think she was confused from the start. Although we sat with the same couple we always sit with, we were joined by three other people. At first, I was seated diagonally across from Kate. That meant that she forgot where I was several times. I moved to be next to her. She forgot that I always order for her and was nervous about ordering herself. I told her I would take care of it, but she couldn’t remember. She repeatedly picked up a separate bar menu and tried to read it. One time she asked the woman next to her to read it for her. Each time I explained that it was the bar menu and that I was taking care of or had ordered her meal. Once we had ordered and the menus were removed, she didn’t have to worry about that anymore.
Then we faced two additional problems. First, the noise was so great before the music started that it was hard to hear what others at the table were saying. In addition, Kate was in the middle seat of the three seats on our side of the table. No one was seated across from her. The noise was the greater problem, but I am sure she felt alone because of the seating arrangement.
The second problem of the evening was the music. It was jazz night. The musicians were outstanding, perhaps the best we have heard there. Typically, however, the program includes a predominance of old standards with the vocalist playing a central role. Last night, it was almost entirely instrumental. I think there were only three standards. Kate didn’t seem unhappy, but she didn’t express any of the enthusiasm that she normally does.
On the way home, she was fine. The contrast in the two situations was striking and illustrates the kind of situations that are easier for her than others. I may need to be more sensitive to this in the future. It is also possible that we might drop the jazz night before I feel the need to do that for the opera and Broadway nights. Coincidentally, I spoke with a church friend yesterday morning. She had mentioned our getting together for lunch. She said something about inviting a couple of other people. I told her that Kate does best with just one or two people besides us. I’m glad I said that.