Fifty-eight years ago today, Kate and I tied the knot. We vowed “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, . . . to love and to cherish till death do us part.” Like most couples, I don’t think we fully appreciated what that meant. We do now and recognize that our lives have been richer because we found each other.
It’s a day to celebrate although I don’t know what lies ahead. It’s been more than five years since she remembered our anniversary, but I remember, and we celebrate each one. We’ve never put much effort into giving gifts to each other. Our emphasis has been on spending time together. For many years, we celebrated with a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, during their annual Spoleto Festival. Our grandest celebration was for our fiftieth, a week with our children and grandchildren in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming.
During the past few years, we’ve gone out to eat. This year we are in our new home, and she is in bed about twenty hours of the day. Since our move, I’ve been ordering a carry-out meal from the dining room each night. That’s what I’ll do this evening.
I know that some of you may think this is sad. In some ways you are right, but, overall, we have much to celebrate. We still enjoy being together, and I plan to reflect on many of our memories to remind Kate of them. While I said we haven’t generally exchanged gifts, I made one for her this year, a 95-page photo book that includes photos from the “Happy Moments” we have shared.
And what will be Kate’s gift to me? You might say, “Nothing,” but that wouldn’t be true. It will be the same one she gives to me almost every day, her own expression of love. That is something she can’t plan. That’s impossible with Alzheimer’s, and there’s no way I can be assured that she will respond that way today. That won’t matter because yesterday she gave me the very best gift of all. She was happy all day long. It was her best day since before Thanksgiving six months ago when she came home from the hospital after a bout with COVID.
She usually sleeps until noon or close to it, but she was awake before 8:00 and very cheerful. After her morning meds, I gave her a serving of mandarin oranges, something she has always liked. Expecting that she would go back to sleep, I turned on some soothing music. She was still awake at 10:15. Normally, her first meal of the day would be served by the caregiver after she arrives at noon. I decided she needed something to eat and fixed her some scrambled eggs.
After that, I sat up in bed with her, and we looked through her “Big Sister” album, a photo book that her brother Ken made for her three years ago. She can’t follow the photos, but she does respond to my commentary. It was a special moment for us because she hasn’t responded well to any of her photo books in months. We were both happy.
When the caregiver arrived, I left for lunch at Andriana’s, our regular Sunday lunch place for several years. I’ve been going by myself during the past six months. It’s a treat that I look forward to each week.
Kate was in her recliner when I got home. The caregiver told me that she had been easy to handle changing her, getting her dressed, and out of bed. She was still cheerful, but relaxed, and enjoying the music I put on before going. It was a great afternoon to be outside. The temperature was in the low-70s, and we went out on the balcony where we remained until time for an early dinner. Getting her out of the recliner and into her wheelchair is not something Kate likes, but she handled it as though it was something she enjoyed.
I know the dining room didn’t plan it for our anniversary, but they had 8-ounce filets for dinner. We enjoyed every bite. When it was time to get ready for bed, she didn’t protest when we lifted her out of her wheelchair and into the bed. Even more surprisingly, she didn’t protest when we got her into her night clothes.
Our day ended on a high note as well. We watched a couple of YouTube videos of piano concertos before I turned on an old CBS program about the filming of The Sound of Music. It is hard for her to follow the visuals, but I gave my own commentary that included references to places we had visited in Salzburg ten years ago.
It was a day in which we simply enjoyed being together. To me that was a perfect gift.