Twelve weeks ago today, Kate suffered a mild stroke. I’m glad to say that she continues to recover although her speech has not returned to its pre-stroke level. She doesn’t speak much at all. When she does, it is not usually intelligible. Most of her speech is in stock phrases or words like “Fine, how are you?” or “Yes, I am.” Sometimes she speaks words in a whisper. That is especially true when we sing together. She really just mouths the words.
Not every day is alike. That has been true during the past three or four years as she moved to the late stages of Alzheimer’s. Throughout this time, I have written about many of our good days. This past Saturday was one of those. It was exciting for me, our caregiver, and the residents and staff who had contact with her.
Let me put that in perspective. Three years ago, I might have said it was a great day. That would probably have related to how cheerful she had been. She can no longer do many of the things she could do then; however, within the context of our lives now, yesterday was truly amazing. It wasn’t that she was just cheerful. She was more alert. Most importantly, she seemed at ease.
It started out much like other mornings. She was awake early but didn’t say a word and went back to sleep. I took my morning walk in the living room. When I finished, I noticed her eyes were open. I thought she might be “up” for the day, but she was tired and rested until the caregiver came shortly afternoon when I left for lunch.
When I returned home, Kate was in her recliner. I walked over and got on my knees beside her. She was alert and gave me a big smile. For the next thirty minutes, I talked to her. I told her how much I liked her smile and that everyone else does as well. I reminded her of our college days, our first date, and some of the experiences we had had during our marriage. She didn’t say much, but it was more than I have heard in months. She made it clear that she understood what I was saying. The caregiver and I were excited.
We went downstairs for our afternoon ice cream and ran into several residents who spoke to her. Each time, she responded with a smile and a word or two. The residents seemed excited as well. She continued to respond to both staff and residents at dinner. Some of them had never heard her speak.
After the caregiver left that night, we had the best evening we’ve had since before her stroke. We have been watching music videos on YouTube for four or five years now, so I’m always looking for new ones. I don’t know what prompted me, but I did a search for TCU’s school song, our alma mater. I found multiple variations sung at football games, a student jazz group, a chorus of music students, and the university band. We lay in bed singing along with them. We had a good time, and Kate laughed a good bit.
When I felt it was time to move on, I brought up a 2012 BBC PROMS concert that was a two-hour performance of Broadway music. We have watched it a number of times before, but Kate was especially attentive that night. For much of that time, my head was on her shoulder, and we held hands. It was a perfect end to an amazing day.