I have previously noted on several occasions that Kate will ask me if she can pull leaves outside as we approach the house after being away from home. This started as something only occasional. It is now becoming a regular pattern. Normally, she asks, “Can I pull some leaves?” After I tell her she can, she frequently asks, “Can I use the clippers?” Often she doesn’t say the word for clippers. She just closes and opens her right hand. I know what she means and tell her it’s all right. After that, usually as we have pulled in the driveway or garage, she says either, “Where can I start?” or “Where do you want me to start?” or just “Front or back.?” I sometimes tell her she can start anywhere she wants. Sometimes I know that we will be going out soon and don’t want her to get so hot that she needs a shower. In those cases, I sometimes suggest she choose a shady spot or even point out a shady spot if I see one. Having settled on where she will start doesn’t mean that is what she does because her memory doesn’t permit her to remember. She seems to gravitate mostly to the two flower beds along the driveway or the flower beds in the front of the house.
After Kate and I got home from lunch today, I came inside. She wanted to pull leaves in the backyard. I had a 2:00 doctor’s appointment and had decided to take her with me rather than leaving here home alone. When I told her I was taking her, she didn’t question it at all. The same was true the last time I paid a visit to his office. My plan was to leave the house at 1:25 in order to be there 15 minutes before hand. At 1:10, I went outside and told her it was time to get ready to leave. She said she wanted to change tops. I told her that would be fine, but we didn’t have time for her to take a shower. She didn’t like that, but I thought she had agreed. I gave her a few minutes to change. Then I went back to her room where it appeared that she was getting ready to put on clean clothes. I told her I was just checking, that we needed to leave. I left her again. When I went back, she had just gotten out of the shower. I told her it was time to go and to hurry. I hate doing this, but she moves as though time doesn’t matter at all. Then I said, “I really need to go.” That led to a panic attack that didn’t fully cease until after we were in the doctor’s waiting room. What really bothers me more than that I caused the attack is that she is then so sorry that she has upset me.
We are now back home. She was fine even before we left the doctor’s. That is one of the positive things about Alzheimer’s. Shortly after we got home, she wanted to go outside to pull leaves. She asked me if she could do so. I told her she could. She asked if she could pull leaves in front. I told her she could. She came inside and put a shirt on over the top she was wearing. I was here in the kitchen. She walked in and asked if she could go outside. Again, I said she could. She asked if she could use the clippers. When I told her yes, she gave me a look of surprise as though I sometimes say no. I don’t ever recall doing so.
As Kate and I were returning from lunch, she asked if she could pull a few leaves when we got home. I told her that would be fine. A few minutes later, she asked, “Now what will you allow me to do?” I said, “You sound like I’m your boss.” Then I said, “You can do anything you want to do.” As we drove into the driveway, she asked, “Can I work in the front (yard)?” I told her again that would be fine. She continues to ask permission rather frequently. She also frequently acts surprised when I say yes as though I never let her. The irony is that I still have never told her she couldn’t.
I have noted a number of times that Kate asks permission to do certain things or what she should do. This is becoming a more common occurrence now. It seems, however, to center around the same things. The requests for permission are almost always if it is all right for her to work outside in the yard. This typically happens when we are approaching our house on the way back from Panera, lunch, or dinner. In addition, it includes whether she can use her clippers and which part of the yard she can go to. I still don’t ever recall telling her that she could not work in the yard or a certain part of the yard or not with her clippers. When I give permission, she gives me a look of surprise as though this is a rare occasion. I must admit I play the game myself. I say, “I guess I am in a good mood today” or “I’m really getting lenient.” I suppose this is a replacement for the game we played when she accused me of being “anal” in a teasing sort of way.
One of the other things she does is more understandable. She asks me if she should take her iPad when we go somewhere in the car. She does the same thing for her cup. This is not surprising because we are often going to Panera where she will need these things. Sometimes we are going where she won’t need them.
Less understandable is her asking me if she can use her iPad in the evening while I watch the PBS Newshour. Once again, this is something I have never told her she couldn’t do; so it seems strange that she would ask my permission. My interpretation is that this is just a matter of the transition from her complete independence to a growing dependence on me to tell her what she should do.
Under this same heading I should also note that she is more frequently asking, “What now?” Or “What can I do now?” This happens most often at night when she has come in from the yard. It also happens on days when because of rain or heat, she doesn’t spend as much time in the yard. When she has to spend extra time in the house, she gets bored and asks what she can do. I always take this as a sign that she wants to go to Panera. So far I have been right every time.
After the past couple of days I was a little concerned about how Kate would respond to the Chamber concert today. As it turns out, she loved it. We had seats on the third row in the center of the orchestra. The artistic director is outstanding. His humor and enthusiasm bring a lot of life to something that many people consider a drag. What is even more surprising is that the first two pieces (out of a total of only three) the group played were contemporary pieces with all the characteristics that are implied by “contemporary.” If we had been listening on the radio, we would have quickly changed stations. As it was, we were both engaged. I think we were heavily influenced by the opening commentary about the pieces as well as being so close to the performers who were outstanding. It was truly an excellent performance.
An interesting sidelight is a story told by the percussionist. Among the instruments he played today was the vibraphone. He said that when the group had their first rehearsal last week, he was surprised at the sight of the vibraphone. When he examined it further, he discovered it was the very same instrument on which he took his first lesson on the vibraphone many years earlier.
Let me also take a moment to repeat something I have said before but seems like it is becoming a stronger habit, Kate’s asking my permission to do things. About thirty minutes ago, Kate asked me if she could close her eyes (that rest) for a few minutes. I told her that would be fine. Shortly thereafter, she got up and went to the bathroom to brush her teeth. When she returned to the room, she asked if she could use her iPad. As always, I told her that would be fine. I do realize that by telling her that it is all right may reinforce her emerging habit. I do, however, sometimes say they she doesn’t need my permission. In this case, I did tell her that I didn’t want her to think I want to control everything she does.
Two or three times this afternoon and evening Kate has asked my permission to do something. One of those occurred when we returned from dinner. As she got out of the car, she noticed her Yeti coffee cup on top of our garbage bin. She looked at me and said with the inflection of a question mark, “I’m going to take this inside.” I said, “That is fine.” Before getting in bed, she asked, “Can I take off my shoes?” The other occurred this afternoon when she asked me if she could work on her album after getting home from lunch. Again I told her that was fine.
I realize that telling her something is fine is itself reinforcing her behavior. I really don’t want to do that. On the other hand, I haven’t wanted to question her as to why she would ask me because she seems so sensitive about my asking her why she does things. She doesn’t know herself.
Despite her objections that I am trying to control too much of her life, it is interesting that Kate is increasingly asking if it is all right for her to do things. Two examples occurred at dinner this evening. After ordering, she asked me if she could start “my album tomorrow.” I told her that would be good. Then I asked if she were talking about her Chautauqua album. She said yes. After dinner, she pointed to the parsley that she had taken from her plate and placed on a paper napkin on the table. Without using words, she was asking if she should take the parsley home for her compost. That is what she always does. Why she happened to ask about doing that tonight I can’t imagine. I told her that she could take it if she wanted to. She said something like, “I don’t have to.” She brought it with her when we left.
When we got home, we both sat in the family room where I watched the news on PBS while she worked puzzles on her iPad. When it was almost 8:00, I told her I was going to take my shower. She decided to go into the bedroom. She sat down on the bed and pointed to the charging cable for her iPad. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t understand what she meant but said, “Yes.” When I said that, she reached down to disconnect the cable from the surge protector. Then I asked what she was going to do. She asked me what I wanted her to do. I told her she could leave it plugged in, that we were “not going anywhere now.” Then she said, “What am I going to do now?” I told her that it was getting near the time she would go to bed and that she might put on her night clothes. She indicated she would do that. Then she picked up her iPad and started to work on it in bed. After my shower, she was still in her clothes. I walked over to her side of the bed. She pointed to the sweater she was wearing. Then she said, “This or my night clothes?” I said, “Your night clothes.” In a few minutes, she got up and changed. Just another illustration of using minimal words and asking for my guidance even though she still wants to be very independent.
Yesterday afternoon, Kate and I were talking about some of our memories when I suggested that we start a project of writing down our memories from our life together. She liked the idea. This afternoon she had reached a point when she was ready for a change. We had been to Panera this morning. Then we had lunch. When we got home, she pruned in the yard. Then she had worked on her iPad for a while. I could tell she was getting bored. Instead of asking if she would like me to take her to Panera, I asked if she would like to work on our memory project. She liked the idea and suggested we do it at Panera. We did it. She told me from the start that she would have to depend on my memory. I suggested we try to write down how we met and something about our first date. Then we started a second section on places we have lived. We only addressed the first place in Fort Worth. I could see she was getting tired and suggested we stop. I told her that I didn’t want us to think of this as work, that we would not have to work on it every day, just as we felt we wanted to. This first effort was better than I might have predicted.