Once in a while, I highlight unusually positive experiences that I call “Happy Moments.” I use the word “moments” to emphasize that the experience is not usually long-lasting although it can occur over several hours.
On a typical day, Kate doesn’t express much emotion until the afternoon. She rarely says a word until after 2:00. This past Friday was very different. It began about eight o’clock in the morning and lasted until she fell asleep around 8:30 that night. It was a day filled with “Happy Moments.”
Kate generally sleeps late. Sometimes, she is asleep when the caregiver arrives at 11:00. Recently, however, she has waked up as early as 7:00. At 8:15 Friday morning, I checked on her. As I approached the bed, I could see that her eyes were open. I have a little routine that I follow each day when I see that she is awake. I say, “I think I see Kate. Yes, it is Kate. She’s my Texas gal. I’m so glad to see you.” Then I remind her that we started dating in our senior year of college, fell in love, and became engaged a year later. I go on to tell her that we’ve been married sixty years, and have two children, and five grandchildren.
Sometimes, but not always, she smiles. That day she smiled and started talking. She has aphasia, so I couldn’t understand much of what she said, but, as usual, I tried to play the role of facilitator saying things like, “Really?” “Tell me more.” “That’s interesting.” From that point, I got beside her in bed, and we began to talk. She dosed a few times, but we talked on and off until the caregiver arrived at 11:00.
A new person was filling in for our usual caregiver, so I wasn’t sure how Kate might respond to her, but she was fine as I left for lunch. While I was gone, the caregiver walked Kate around the hallways in her wheelchair and stopped to visit with residents in a couple of places. I learned later that she had been smiling and talking with other residents who had stopped to say hello.
Friday afternoon I had coffee with a longtime friend. When I arrived home, I went directly to the café where the caregiver had taken Kate for ice cream. I walked up behind Kate. As I looked around to see her face, she gave me a big smile. That happens frequently but not always. When it does, it warms my heart.
From there, we went to dinner in the community dining room where she always receives a lot of attention from the staff and other residents. She remained cheerful and talkative the entire meal. I can’t tell how long moments like these will last, and this time I was in for a surprise. She remained the way she had been all day until I turned out the lights around 8:30. It was an extraordinary day, unlike any I have seen before. I treasure moments like these.