As I have recently conveyed, Kate’s stroke has had an impact on our daily lives over the past 8 weeks, but last week was a very good one. In fact, she had a few moments that were every bit as good as those she had before the stroke. That doesn’t mean she has fully recovered. On the other hand, she has experienced moments of cheerfulness and clarity of mind that I hadn’t seen in a while.
The first occurred while we were having ice cream Monday afternoon. A retired Methodist minister, Tom, dropped by our table. During our conversation, he told us a few funny stories of experiences he had during his ministry. One of them involved a baptism. Methodists don’t typically baptize by immersion, but a new member wanted that, so he contacted a local Baptist minister for help. He agreed to let them use their church.
When the day came, the family gathered at the church. I don’t recall the details, but Tom asked where they should change clothes before getting into the baptistry. The minister pointed to an area beside the baptistry with a wire draped by a curtain and said, “Right behind this curtain.” As Tom performed the baptism, the curtain fell and exposed a man standing there stark naked.
The caregiver and I laughed, but what we noticed immediately was Kate. She was laughing as well. I don’t think I’ve seen her laugh so hard in years. Because she doesn’t say much, we often assume that she isn’t following conversations like this. Clearly, we were wrong in this case. As he regaled us with other stories, she continued to laugh as did we. It was a beautiful experience.
She was in a cheerful mood throughout dinner and actually responded to several servers and residents while we were eating.
During the past few years, I have had some success reading to Kate. As with so many other things in my caregivers’ toolbox, it hasn’t been as reliable in the past year or so. She has responded more favorably recently, so after lunch on Tuesday, I picked up The Velveteen Rabbit and sat in a chair beside her. Typically, I sit facing the same direction as Kate, but this time I turned the chair facing her. That enabled me to watch her facial expressions more closely. I am so glad I did.
Before reading to her, she was smiling and seemed more alert than usual. From the very beginning, she was engaged. As I read, I think each of us was attentive to the other and responded similarly. I try to read somewhat dramatically to emphasize the feelings of the rabbit as he encounters the various situations in the story. She loved the story, and I loved watching her.
She has also been awake more during the morning and evening. That has given us a little more time together. I have especially enjoyed that. After finishing my morning walks this past week, there have been a few times that I picked up my laptop, put on some music, and got into bed beside her. She didn’t talk much, but I enjoyed being with her.
She generally goes to sleep soon after we get her to bed, but the last two nights she has been awake until almost 10:00. The fact that I had the TV tuned to basketball may have had something to do with that. Whatever the reason, we enjoyed our time together.
I had intended to post this yesterday morning, but I got tied up in a few other things. That gave me a chance to add a couple of other events from yesterday afternoon. The first one occurred when Kate had finished her ice cream. The caregiver had bought something that looked like an antipasto salad. Kate looked over at it and said, “What do you have there?” That may not seem like much, but it would have been unlikely for her to ask that even before her stroke.
The other event happened after we returned from dinner. I hadn’t turned off the music before we left, and a Charles Lloyd album was playing as we walked in. Almost all the music is very relaxing, and Kate quickly took an interest. I pulled up a chair beside her and faced her. I took her hand in mine, and we sat there for thirty minutes listening to the music. With her eyes closed, she stroked my hand and arm and moved her head with the music. I spoke very little. She said almost nothing, but words weren’t necessary. We were connecting just the way we always have.
So, it’s been a great week. She’s been awake more, talked more, and displayed signs that she not only hears us but can respond appropriately. I realize that the coming week might be quite different, but, as always, I am grateful when Happy Moments like these occur.