“On the Road Again”

“Real” travel is a thing of the past for Kate and me, but we occasionally take one-nighters. I am writing from Nashville where we will visit our friend, Ellen, this afternoon. She has been in memory care for almost two years. We have visited her about every 4-6 weeks since here stroke four years ago this past August except for a couple of times when she was in the hospital or rehab. Sometimes we also visit with other friends who live here. We’re just visiting Ellen on this trip. As we have done for the past 6-8 months, we stayed in a hotel overnight. That makes it a little easier than going and coming in one day. Besides that, we have a nice meal at one of several restaurants we like. It makes a nice change from our regular routine.

We got off to a good start when Kate woke up early. After a trip to the bathroom, she took a shower and returned to bed. I let her rest until 11:30 when I got her up for lunch. We had a relaxed lunch at Bluefish before leaving town and had an especially good time. Kate said something that led into a discussion about religion. It wasn’t a deep discussion, but she talked about the contribution that make religion makes in support of programs designed to help others.

We had an unusually good time at dinner. We ate at a very nice Italian restaurant. I am grateful that we can still have experiences like this. At some point, I suspect we will discontinue eating out. In the meantime, we both enjoy it and living as normal a life as we can at this stage. I gave out two of my Alzheimer’s cards, one to the hostess who seated us and another to our server.

There were only a few things that might have given clues to her diagnosis. The first was getting to our table and getting seated. She performs both tasks with great care. That’s because she is unsure of what to do. We had to go up one step to the area where our table was located. That adds an extra challenge for her. Getting into her seat presents two problems. One is knowing which chair is hers. That happens even though I pull out the chair, stand there to help her, and tell her “This is your chair.” That seems a simple thing but not to a person with dementia.  The other issue is getting into the chair. She is as cautious with that as going up and down steps.

Along with our bread, we were served a bowl of white beans in olive oil. She prefers butter with her bread, but she asked about the beans. I put a few on her bread plate. She started eating them with her fingers. She liked them. She took the bowl and used the spoon that came with them to eat them as she would a bowl of soup.

The manager stopped by our table near the end of our meal. Kate told him “We come here a lot and really liked the meal.” He looked at her a bit strangely. I suspect he wondered why he didn’t remember her. The answer was clear. This was only the second time we have had dinner there. The first time would have been almost a year ago. We have eaten there for lunch, but that would have been more than five years ago.

Kate went to bed early but not to sleep. She has been up twice this morning to go to the bathroom, once at 5:00 and once at 8:00. She is sleeping soundly as I write this post. I’ll get her up in time to make our noon reservations for lunch. We should be at Ellen’s by 2:00 and head back to Knoxville around 4:00.

For years, I left Kate for a short time to eat breakfast in the dining room or area. I remember preparing signs with large lettering telling her where I was and that I would return soon. I gave that up about a year ago when I no longer felt comfortable leaving here for even a short period of time. Now I just order breakfast from room service. It’s not quite the same, but I like to eat right after getting up. Kate likes to sleep later. With room service we both get what we want though I much prefer breakfast in the dining room to our dark hotel room. Like so many other things, this is something with which I can adapt.

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