This Morning’s Experience of “Knowing” but “Not Knowing”

Some time ago (February 18, 2018) I wrote a post entitled “What does it mean to know someone?” The answer to that question is much more complex than it sounds. I see that all the time with Kate. Like other care partners, I am very sensitive to those times when Kate knows or seems not to know me. I tend to put her level of knowing in four categories.

  1. She knows me in all the traditional ways a wife knows her husband. She knows my name, that I am her husband, and has a feeling of affection/kinship for me.
  2. She knows either my name or that I am her husband (usually the latter) and has a feeling of affection/kinship for me.
  3. She knows neither my name nor that I am her husband, but has a feeling that I am someone familiar and whom she trusts.
  4. She has no idea who I am.

I can’t put an accurate estimate on the frequency with which she experiences these categories. I do know that Category 4 is the least frequent by far. There have only been a handful of times in which she has had no idea who I am. Category 1 occurs infrequently but much more than Category 4.

That leaves the other two categories that occur most often. I’m not sure, but I think we are at a time when Category 3 is, or is becoming, the most common. Most of the time she knows me as someone familiar and whom she trusts.

I know there must be caregivers who find it disturbing when their loved ones no longer remember their names or relationships, but I find that leaves me with the most important connection that we have and have always had. Like most other couples we were attracted to each other from our first date, perhaps even before or there might not have been a first date. After all our experiences and changes in our lives, this sense remains. I am optimistic that it will continue though I recognize that, too, may give way to this disease called Alzheimer’s. In the meantime, I am going to relish moments like this morning. In the scheme of things, it wasn’t significant, but it meant something to me.

I was just finishing breakfast when I noticed on the video cam that Kate was about to get up to go to the bathroom. I went to the bedroom and could tell this was a morning when she was confused. Unlike other times, she seemed very normal in terms of her emotion. She showed no signs of anxiety or fear though I feel sure she was feeling anxiety. In a very natural tone of voice she said, “What’s going on?” I said, “Well, you just woke up, and you are in your own house. That’s your back yard that you like to look out on each morning.” She said she recognized it.

Then she said, “What now?” I said, “I think you were about to get up to go to the bathroom.” She said, “I think I was. Where is it?” I said, “Let me show you.” I took her hand. She held it all the way. That’s not something she always does. As we walked, she said, “Who are you?” I said, “I am Richard, and I am your husband.” She didn’t act surprised nor elated. She just accepted that as a label for me.

After using the toilet and washing her hands, she said, “I wish I could just be with you and nobody else.” I said, “You are. This is our house, and there’s nobody else her but us.” She seemed to like that but didn’t express any special emotion at all. She said, “What now?” I said, “You usually like to go back to bed for a while.” She said that is what she wanted to do. She said, “Who are you?” I told her again and noticed that she seemed just a bit uneasy and asked, “Would you like for me to stay in here with you?” She did, and I told her I would get my laptop and come back to the room. She said, “Don’t leave me. Take me with you.” I told her I would; however, by the time we reached the end of the bed, she had forgotten and walked toward her side of the bed.

After she was in bed, I asked if she would like me to stay in the room with her. She did. I remained with her. She fell asleep. Thirty minutes later I came back to the kitchen (my office) to write this post.

This was one of those times she didn’t know my name or our relationship, but she had a good feeling about me and trusted me. That is what is most important to me. It reinforces my desire to keep her secure and happy, and she almost always is.

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