Nine Years Ago Today

Most people remember specific dates that represent something significant that happened in their lives. I have a number of those, our wedding date, Kate’s birthday along with those of our children, grandchildren, parents, and siblings. We celebrate dates like these, but there are also dates when something happened that we don’t think of celebrating. January 21, 2011, is that kind of date for me. Nine years ago today, Kate’s doctor delivered the news that she has Alzheimer’s.

At the time, the news was devastating, but we made a commitment to make the most of the quality time remaining to us. I had no idea how long that would last. Here we are nine years later and still able to enjoy life and each other. I am very grateful for that. I can honestly say that these years have been among the best of our marriage.

Today, however, I feel other emotions as well. They are more like the way ones I felt when she received the diagnosis. I am just as intent on making the most of our time together, but at this last stage of her disease, I am more than bit apprehensive. I know that we won’t continue to live the way we have the past nine years. We are at the beginning of the stage people imagine when they think of Alzheimer’s. Our quality time is going to be more limited. This doesn’t mean our experience of “Happy Moments” will cease. It is just that they will be different. Even in the past few weeks, I see the challenges increasing. I mentioned a couple of them in my previous post. Another one occurred yesterday.

Kate was just as tired as the previous morning, perhaps even more so. Off and on for an hour and a half, I worked to gently wake her before my efforts met with success. I began with some soft music and gradually changed to more lively music. The first two two or three times I went to check on her, she was sleeping so soundly that she didn’t hear me at all. That has never happened before. My reward was that she smiled when she finally responded the last time I tried.

She was slow to get up and wanted to rest a little longer after she was partially dressed. While she rested, we talked. She repeatedly asked my name and where she was. This was a time when she didn’t remember me as her husband, but she spoke very comfortably with me. She didn’t express any great surprise when I told her we were married, but that didn’t stop her from asking my name.

She was in a good humor and kidded me a good bit. While lying in bed, she wanted us to sing something. I sang Edelweiss, but she didn’t sing along because she couldn’t remember the words. She wanted me to sing it again. I did and then played it on our audio system. That way I could give her the words just before each phrase. She enjoys singing.  It was an unusual and pleasant way to start our day.

It was our day for the sitter. When she arrived, Kate wondered who was at the door. I told her it was “Cindy, your friend who takes you to lunch on Monday.” She didn’t remember her but was very nonchalant in her response. She greeted Cindy warmly and never hesitated about my leaving with her. I didn’t have Rotary yesterday and almost canceled the sitter, but I thought I could use the time. I have also wanted to strengthen the bond between the two of them. I have had the distinct impression that Kate favors the sitter who comes on Wednesday and Friday and has been with since our second week with sitters. I believe that continuity helps and hope we don’t ever lose her.

The rest of our day went well. Kate was especially taken with some YouTube music videos I played for her last night. That took the place of her iPad on which she had started to work puzzles but lost interest. It was nice to see her enjoying herself. She was still awake when I got in bed. We chatted briefly and expressed our love for each other.

I make a point of mentioning the challenges of getting her up, her confusion and failure to remember my name and our relationship along with the good time we had once she was up. This is a good snapshot of what “Living with Alzheimer’s” is like for us. As long as she is happy, we will continue to live well. I hope I am wrong about the changes I believe will occur in the coming year. Despite my expectations, I am very grateful for the good times we have had in the past and feel sure we will have more in the future. We have, indeed, been fortunate.

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