I have a Twitter friend whose wife has early onset Alzheimer’s. She is in memory care, and it is only recently that they have been able to get together. The other day he posted a video of the two of them as he read Love You Forever. As he read, she leaned over and kissed him (through her mask, of course). His tweet said, “Special moments are not always captured but this one was.”
This struck a chord with me because Kate and I have so many moments like this that go unrecorded. Sometimes I try to describe them, but my descriptions never fully convey the feelings of those moments. The past few days they seem to have been more frequent than usual.
Two days ago, I posted a tweet about one of those moments that occurred at lunch on Sunday. Only two other tables were occupied in a restaurant that seats over 200. While enjoying the quiet and comfort of having the restaurant almost all to ourselves, Kate said, “I want you to know how much I appreciate all that you do for me.” I said, “I do it because I love you.” She said, “I love you too. <pause> Who are you?” It was a very tender moment that some might have taken as sad, but it was a special time for both of us.
We had a similar, but longer, experience the next morning. Kate woke up early. I was only twenty minutes into my morning walk (inside the house for those of you who are new to this site). When I got to her bedside, she was sitting on the edge of the bed, her mind seemed to be a complete blank. She said, “What am I doing here?” I said, “This is your home. This is where you live.” It didn’t take long to tell that she didn’t know me and that she was in a deeper fog than usual; however, she wasn’t frightened as she is sometimes. She was just confused about where she was, who she was, and who I was.
I told her we had been friends in college and that I could help her. That didn’t totally reassure her, but I was able to take her to the bathroom without her having any reservations. Once there, she didn’t know what to do. I explained that she should take off her underwear and sit on the toilet. She was still a bit unsure of me and didn’t feel comfortable doing that. I was, however, able to get her to brush her teeth. She began to feel somewhat more at ease with me, and I took her back to the bedroom to get her dressed. She was a little hesitant to let me help but consented. Throughout the process she seemed to get more comfortable. Several times she asked who I was. I gave her my name and repeated that we had met in college and been together ever since.
I took her to the kitchen where I poured her a glass of apple juice, and she took her morning medicine without a problem. I also turned on a Barbra Streisand album and selected songs that I know she especially likes. She commented on how much she liked the apple juice. She seemed pretty much normal though she continued to periodically ask who I was.
I fixed her some cheese toast. She liked it and wanted more. The music was still playing when she finished eating. Streisand and Neil Diamond were singing “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore.” Kate had closed her eyes and was engrossed in the music. She even mouthed some of the words.
When the song ended, she opened her eyes. Something across the table caught her eye. She said, “This is a nice room.” (Most of the time, she doesn’t know she is in her own home and admires it as though she is visiting a friend’s house or staying in some type of commercial lodging.)
I said, “Beautiful things. Beautiful music. <pause> And beautiful feelings.” She looked at me, nodded, and repeated, “Beautiful feelings.” Then she extended her left hand to me. I put my right hand on hers. She put her right hand on mine, and I followed with my left hand on hers. We sat there quietly for 5-10 minutes without saying a word, just listening to the music.
Kate still had several small pieces of cheese toast on her plate. She asked if I could fix more and that we could share. I did. The music ended, and I put on another album that we have always liked. Then we sat quietly enjoying cheese toast and the music for another twenty minutes or so before adjourning to the family room. Before getting up, she said, “I feel better.” I said, “I do too.”
Did she know who I was? I don’t know. I doubt it. What is important is that we had shared a special moment together. As Kate’s care partner, I’ve read a good bit about caregiving. I’ve learned a lot though never enough. A number of things have seemed especially significant to me. One is the importance of living in the moment. Another is mindfulness. I think this particular experience is a good example of both. I try to take advantage of moments like this and am “mindful” of how much each of us cares for the other and that there is a limit on our time together.
The day began with a rocky start, but in a rather short period of time evolved to that tender moment. It wasn’t that I had done anything of great significance. That wasn’t necessary. I just helped her get ready for the day, served her a breakfast she enjoyed, played music I know she likes, and gave her time to feel at ease with me.