Key Events from Yesterday

Kate has never been a breakfast eater. I am. The result is that we have eaten breakfast together only occasionally since we married now almost fifty-seven years ago. That has occurred most often when we were traveling and also periodically attending a monthly breakfast with a group from the Y. She got up early when the children were with us and when she was working, but she would quickly drink a glass of orange juice and eat a cup of yogurt. Now she generally sleeps until time for lunch. On those occasions when she gets up early, we go to Panera where she eats a blueberry muffin. When she gets up, I have already eaten. That came to an end yesterday.

I woke up about 3:00 yesterday morning and didn’t get back to sleep for a long time. As a result, I slept later than usual. I am sure the fact that it was only the second day of daylight saving time was also a factor. At any rate, I got up about 7:15 instead of 5:45 to 6:15 on most mornings.

It was close to 8:00 when I was about to fry a couple of eggs. I heard Kate say something and went to the bedroom. She greeted me warmly, but she was eager “to get outta here.” I told her I would be happy to take her. Normally I would take her to Panera, but this wasn’t a normal day. I hadn’t eaten breakfast. I decided to take her to Eggs Up Grill where we could have breakfast together.

I got Eggs Benedict, and Kate had blueberry pancakes. She hadn’t remembered what pancakes and syrup were, but she enjoyed every bite. It turned out to be a very nice way to begin the day. As happens when we go to Panera and back, she never mentioned wanting to “go home” or “get outta here” again (until next time).

Once home, she was ready to rest. I put on some relaxing music. She got on the sofa in the family room and went to sleep. She awoke about thirty minutes before the sitter was to arrive. I asked if she would like for us to look at one of her photo books. She liked the idea, and we sat together on the sofa and started one. It was only a few minutes before she said she was tired. She leaned her head on my shoulder, and we sat there listening to the music.

It was a very peaceful moment until I heard the doorbell ring. I told Kate it was the sitter and that I would be going to Rotary. I knew when I said it that the transition was too abrupt. She sat up straight, crossed her arms and gave me a dirty look. She was more disturbed than I would have expected. Fortunately, when she saw Cindy, she smiled and greeted her enthusiastically. I will make sure to follow my more typical pattern in the future. I like to stay a few minutes after the sitters arrive. I don’t have that much time on days when I have Rotary and will be more careful next time.

On the way to dinner, Kate told me that I take good care of her and continued to express her appreciation during the ten-minute drive to Chalupas for dinner. She emphasized that she could not live without me. I could tell by the way she said it that she understands just how dependent she is.

We had an unusual conversation at dinner. I wish I could tell you more about it. I had finished my meal and was waiting for Kate to finish hers when she started talking about the servers and kitchen help in the restaurants we frequent. This is not a new topic. She often asks me if I would like to have a job doing similar work. She seems to be worried about both the income that people make and the non-financial rewards that accompany this type of work. Her thinking goes beyond restaurants to many other types of jobs.

As she talked, it was clear that she was very relaxed. I think she was just enjoying talking. She failed to complete many of her sentences by saying, “You know” and then moving on. She also referred to “him” or “her” or “they” and “them.” That also made it difficult to understand who she was talking about. The topic also changed several times as well.

I paid our check, and she continued to talk. Several times I asked if she was ready to leave. Each time, she said, “In a few minutes.” I wasn’t able to make much sense of what she was saying, but she seemed happy that I was listening to her. After almost fifty minutes, she finally agreed to leave. The conversation ended after getting up from the table.

Kate continues to  be aware of many things she can’t do. That concerns her. I believe her talking this way was another instance of trying behave like a normal person. Conversations are difficult for her in terms of knowing what to say. When we are with other people, she also has trouble finding an appropriate entry point between the comments of the rest of us. I think the conditions were just right last night. It was just the two of us. We had had a relaxing meal. She was in the mood to talk, and I was a supportive listener. I just wish I could have understood what she said.

No “Sleeping-In” Yesterday

Following two consecutive days of not wanting to get up, Kate awoke early yesterday and wanted “to get out’a here.” Except for believing she was in an unfamiliar place, she was in a good mood. For me, one of the good things about her wanting to get away is that it makes it easier and faster to get her up and dressed. We were at Panera before 10:30. She worked on her iPad but focused mainly on her blueberry muffin and wanted another. I told her we would be going to lunch in thirty minutes and asked if she could wait. She was agreeable.

The afternoon was our usual one. She rested a couple of hours. Then I suggested we look at a photo album of pictures taken when our children were pre-school age. We did that for a while before our daughter called. We had a nice conversation and Kate handled it well. After the call, we returned to the photo album, but Kate wanted to rest a little longer.

When I suggested our going to dinner, she didn’t hesitate getting up. That is normal. I don’t recall her ever having trouble getting up after resting in the family room in the afternoon. I wish I could say that about the morning when she is in bed.

She was confused about where she was as well as who I was but wasn’t disturbed. She asked my name and asked if we would be coming back for the night. She also said a few other things that made it clear she thought we were in someone else’s house.

At dinner something came up that made me mention our marriage. Kate was shocked. I was surprised at her reaction because we had been talking so comfortably about our relationship. It wasn’t simply that she was shocked. She couldn’t imagine how it was possible that she could have forgotten something like that. Fortunately, I was able to divert her attention. She was fine after that, but I felt bad. I intend to be more careful about that in the future. I think I have been unconsciously trying to keep that memory alive. Now I am beginning to believe that it may be time to let it go. I’ll just assume that she doesn’t remember and not try to remind her. There are enough incidental reminders when we browse through her photo books and interact with other people.

We had one of those middle-of-the-night incidents at 1:30 this morning. I woke up as Kate sat up on the side of the bed. I got up and went around to her side to help her up. She seemed wide awake and cheerfully greeted me like someone she might have recognized but not known. It wasn’t long before she said, “Who are you?” I told her my name but said nothing of our relationship. She didn’t ask.

I asked if she wanted to go to the bathroom. She didn’t. She asked about “the others.” I told her we were the only ones “here.” She seemed surprised but didn’t question me. I asked again if she would like to use the bathroom. She asked where it was. I told her I would show her. We usually hold hands, but she didn’t want to this time.

When we reached the bathroom, I stepped in and turned around to direct her to the toilet. She showed no interest in coming in. Instead, she was obsessed with what time she should “be there.” I never found out where “there” was, but it was important to her. I told her she didn’t need to be there until “1:00 tomorrow.” She was surprised and asked about today. I told her it was the middle of the night and that she would need her sleep to be ready for tomorrow. She went back to the question “What time do I have to be there?” We went through a repetition my standard answer and her standard question. A couple of times she asked what time she would have to leave, but her emphasis was on what time she had to be there. She couldn’t remember and kept asking.

Finally, she used the toilet. When she was finished, she noticed two pictures on the top of a nearby cabinet. One was a photo of my mom and me. She pointed to my mom and wanted to know who she was. When I told her who she was, she said, “I remember her. She is very nice.” Then she asked about my sister. I don’t have a sister but said she was fine. Then she said my sister was very nice and that she liked her. Before getting back to bed, she commented several other times about my mom and sister and how nice they were.

Once in bed, she was still wide awake for a short time. I tried not to encourage much talking, and she soon drifted off to sleep. She is still sleeping as I finish this entry. On the video cam I just saw her moving a few minutes ago, I will check on her and see if she is ready to get up. That would be nice. I don’t have Rotary today, and the sitter is coming at 1:00 rather than noon. If she gets up soon, we would be able to have lunch together. That would be a good way to start the week.

Yesterday Afternoon and Evening

I am glad to report that the afternoon and evening went quite well yesterday. Kate got up from her late-morning rest and we had a very nice lunch and made it back for her 1:30 hair appointment without having to rush. Leisurely going about our daily activities works best for both of us.

We were back home before a big rain storm hit the area. It was so bad that I called the restaurant to make sure the program was still on for the night. It was. I told the woman on the phone that we would come if the rain slackened; otherwise, we would stay at home. As it turned out, the rain was lighter and we went despite the nasty weather conditions. It turned out to be fine. The crowd was a little lighter, but the program was excellent. Kate sat beside the 95-year-old woman who used to run the restaurant before her daughter took over years ago. Another couple we had not met before sat across from us. Kate didn’t participate much, but I don’t think she felt left out. We both enjoyed the evening.

During the afternoon and after we returned home, she was talkative but seemed to have more trouble expressing herself than usual. She talked for an extended period before dinner. I don’t even remember what she talked about. That may have been because I couldn’t understand her. She used a lot of wrong words and often acknowledged it. In addition, her comments were filled gestures, “You knows,” and vague words like “things,” or simply “da, da, das.”

The other talkative period lasted approximately thirty minutes as I was trying to get ready for a shower. Everything had been going smoothly. She had been in a cheerful mood the whole day. That continued as I started helping her get ready for bed. We got to the part where it was time for her to remove her pants, and she refused. I explained that she hadn’t put on her nighttime underwear. That had no impact. I tried to gently coax her and finally said something that changed the tone of our interaction. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I apologized and suggested we step back and think about our relationship. I conveyed my love for her and mentioned that we have always respected each other and that my only desire was to help her.

She immediately changed her tone of voice and began a lengthy conversation (soliloquy). She started talking about our relationship and how much she appreciated what I do for her. Then she began to talk about how we could help a boy in need of something. I only picked up that he had a sister but little else. It was impossible for me to understand. All I can say is that she talked for thirty minutes and was strong in her belief that she and I together would be able to help him.

Reflecting on Visits with Out-of-Town Friends

This past Saturday Kate and I went to Nashville to visit our longtime friends, the Greeleys. It was a visit very much like recent ones we have had with two other couples who are also longtime friends. All three were good visits for me, but they presented a challenge for Kate. I had exchanged emails with each couple prior to the visit. I told them that she is sensitive about being excluded from our conversations. All of us were interested in seeing that she was a part of the group.

In practice, that is very hard to do. We have a long history of conversations, and we fall back on the way we have always interacted. We would have to devote all our effort to make Kate an integral part of the conversation. This is not a problem that is the fault of our friends. I get caught up in the conversation myself and am the biggest talker of them all.

There is no problem when it is just Kate and me. We are able to converse easily. That involves a significant amount of repetition and a narrower range of topics. It would be hard for a group to spend a visit of two or more hours doing that. Eventually we would be back to where we are now, three of us involved in a conversation while Kate sits and tries to listen but can’t follow.

When I face a situation like this, I like to think of the things that are within my control and those that are not. One of the things I can’t control is Kate’s Alzheimer’s. She is on a course that will eventually prevent her from participating at all. We may be approaching that now. I never really thought about this issue before being faced with it. If I had, I probably would have expected a transition in which her ability to participate and her desire to be part of the conversation declined at the same time. That is not happening. I shouldn’t be surprised. She can neither remember things from the past nor learn new things, but she still wants to remember and learn. I am reminded of what I have heard so many times in the past, “Well, at least she doesn’t know.” Well into Stage 7, Kate clearly does know that something is wrong with her. But still she wants to remember, to learn, and to converse like everyone else. This is frustrating and sometimes frightening for her.

As for what is under my control, I would say my options are limited. I could avoid having these visits. That is something I don’t want or intend to do unless the problem is more serious than it is now. I could also make a few suggestions to our friends about things that Kate can appreciate. One thing that comes to mind is beauty. Everyone has artwork, flowering plants, or other items of aesthetic value they have collected over the years. Kate might take an interest in those. Her tastes now are very simple. She still loves the paper doilies she brings back from one of the restaurants we visit every week. She loves children. She might enjoy looking at photos of friends’ children or grandchildren.

There is also something else that I plan to consider. I could withdraw from the conversation periodically. That would leave the conversation to Kate and our friends. That combined with the knowledge of things that might appeal to her could be just enough to help Kate enjoy herself. Right now, I haven’t decided what to do. We don’t have any other visits scheduled and won’t for a while. My inclination, however, is to make a last attempt to include her in some way. If that doesn’t work, I will accept that the time has come when it isn’t possible for Kate to be as much a part of the conversation as I had wanted. That’s what I’ve had to do with her loss of memory and her ability to take care of herself. Alzheimer’s requires caregivers to accept a lot of things that we cannot change.

Is It Really Possible to Have a Good Day During the Late Stage of Alzheimer’s?

I am frequently concerned that I paint too rosy a picture of what living with Alzheimer’s is like for us. We, especially Kate, experience challenges, frustration, and stress. I don’t know how we could live with Alzheimer’s any other way; however, I believe it is important to communicate the good things that we can still enjoy. Yes, we can even have a “Good Day” at this stage of the disease. I always feel the need to reiterate that doesn’t necessarily mean that Kate’s memory is better or that she isn’t confused. I mean that we have enjoyed, not just a moment, but the day.

Yesterday was one of those. Several things may have accounted for that. She awoke in a good mood. In addition, we were not rushed at all. Her insecurity is also increasing. She seemed more dependent than usual. Finally, we talked a lot about our relationship and our love for each other.

She was also up early again, and we went to Panera and returned home for her to rest an hour before leaving for lunch. It was a very leisurely morning. We went to the Sunset Café for lunch. It’s a cut above most of the other restaurants we visit and they always save a corner table in the bar for us. It’s a quiet place and seems a little more private because the bar is quite small, only three other tables, and not very active at lunch. The setting makes it easy to engage in conversation. Kate and I took advantage of that. We have been eating there for several years and have gotten to know the hostesses, several servers, and shift managers, all of whom stop by our table to say hello. It provides the kind of social occasion Kate can easily handle.

When we returned home, she wanted to rest and did so for almost three hours before we got ready for dinner at Casa Bella. They were having a repeat of the Broadway program we heard last week, so I thought it might be nice to eat  in the front section of the restaurant away from the music. This is where we had eaten most often before they started their music nights. We have shared happy and sad moments there over the years. Last night was one of the happy ones.

We talked almost entirely about our relationship, our families, and how much we have to be grateful for. We also dealt with how we would feel if we lost the other through death. We do this periodically. Both of us feel we would like to die first so as not to live without the other. I feel good when we are able to talk about these things because I often think about her death and know that the odds of my living without her are significantly higher than the other way around. Of course, she doesn’t know that which magnifies her fear of my dying first and leaving her alone. She is very insecure now. She recognizes how difficult it is for her to do anything on her own.

Some might take this kind of conversation to be sad. It is, but there is another side to it. When we talk like this, we also feel very close. Each of us recognizes the depth of our love for the other in a way that doesn’t occur in the course of our daily routine. Of course, we approach this topic from different perspectives. I have a better idea of what is ahead for her. On the other hand, she is keenly aware that something is wrong with her as well as her dependency on me. I believe that when we have discussions like this we are uniting in a way that strengthens each of us. Her trust in me serves to reinforce my desire to care for her, and she is comforted by my assurances that I will be with her all the way.

It could have been an ordinary day. We didn’t do anything extraordinary. But it was a day in which we focused heavily on what we mean to each other. That made it special. It was a “Good Day.”

Ken and Virginia’s Visit

Today is the last day we have with Kate’s brother and his wife. The visit has gone well. We have focused on being together. Except a short drive through the continuing care retirement community that we will be moving to next year, we haven’t done anything special apart from eating out. I was interested in learning more about Ken and Virginia’s move to a similar community this past November. They seem to have adapted well. In their case, it involved a change of cities. They are now closer to family. We have had time for conversation.

I was especially pleased when Kate and Ken had an hour or so to look through a book he had recently given her. It contains a large collection of photos of their hometown of Fort Worth. Virginia and I adjourned to the living room, so we couldn’t hear their conversation. The fact that they spent so much time was a good sign that Kate enjoyed it. This was right after returning home from lunch yesterday. That is a time she normally rests. They finally stopped because she was tired. Ken mentioned that she also began cry as he read and told her about several of the photos. One involved the deaths of a basketball team many years ago.

It helps that Virginia and Ken are sensitive to Kate’s need to rest and have gone back to their hotel an hour or two each day. They understand that she has to work hard to keep up with a group. We have followed our daily routine though she has gotten to bed later at night. I think it is good for her to have a little extra stimulation. I feel very strongly that she and Ken should make the most of this visit. The next one is likely to be very different.

The only concern I have had is maintaining Kate’s involvement in our conversation. Virginia and I are the talkers in the group, and we have dominated. There is a certain inevitability to this. The nature of the conversation has to be rather limited for Kate. I also recognize that she is approaching a time when it won’t be possible for her to join in a conversation no matter what the rest of us do; however, I don’t want her to feel excluded from the group.

A Christmas Afternoon Conversation

Kate and I had just returned from a late Christmas lunch around 4:30. We went to the family room, and Kate asked what she could do. I told her I could read something to her or she might like to look at one of her family photo books. She was unsure. I picked up a photo book of her father’s family and suggested we go through it together. I handed it to her and let her look for a few minutes while I brushed my teeth.

When I returned, she was looking at the first page. She told me she didn’t know anything. I told her I would help her. For about ten minutes we went through a few pages with my commentary on the people and places. She said she was interested but this was too much for her. She couldn’t absorb or remember anything. I suggested that it might be a good time for her to take a break and just rest. She said, “Let’s just do a couple of pages.” I agreed, but she stopped me again to say it was too much. This time she accepted my suggestion to rest. We closed the book and began an interesting and touching conversation that I was able to record. I have transcribed the beginning portion below.

Richard:         So you don’t remember anything right now.

Kate:               No. <pause> No. I don’t.

Richard:         Do you remember anything about your mother?

Kate:               No.

Richard:         What about your daddy?

Kate:               You know, right now, I just can’t even (Trails off)  This is so much to remember. It’s just too much right now.

Richard:         You know what you do remember though, I think? You can tell me if I’m wrong. You remember that you liked your mother very much. Do you remember that?

Kate:               No.

Richard:         You don’t?

Kate:               But that would be wonderful thing.

Richard          Do you remember what a nice and great woman she was?

Kate:               I don’t know much about her. I hardly know anything about her. I know I’ve been told, but I <slight pause> I mean, I must have, must have, but I have no (Trails off)

Richard:         No memory.

Kate:               This is why I don’t want to go too fast, and  I’d rather just go (Trails off)

Richard:         We don’t have to hurry at all. There is no reason to rush.

Kate:               Well, see, uh, that’s, that’s good.

Richard:         There are a couple of things I’d like you to know from me.

Kate:               All right. If I could tell you, I will.

Richard:         No, I just want to tell you something, and it’s the way I, it’s something I feel. One is that I love you very much.

Kate:               I love you too.

Richard:         Second is I want you to know you can depend on me.

Kate:               I think so too.

Richard:         I will help you with anything you need – anytime, and I believe that you know that I will.

Kate:               Oh, I know. Definitely.

Richard:         We’ve always cared for each other.

Kate:               Yes, we have.

Richard:         And we always will.

Kate:               That’s right too.

Richard:         You know, it takes us back to our wedding vows, doesn’t it? We said we would always stick together. For better or for worse.

Kate:               And we have.

Richard:         And, fortunately, its been mostly, almost entirely, the better for us. Hasn’t it? Haven’t we been fortunate?

Kate:               Oh, yes, yes, yes. I don’t remember much of it, but, you know, I’ve never had an anybody that . . . No <pause> no problems, they were all. I mean I don’t remember in (Trails off)

Richard:         You’re right. We just have had good times. We enjoyed the places we have lived. We enjoyed the people we’ve met. We’ve enjoyed our experiences in our work and going to school. You know, one of the things you enjoyed most was being a church librarian. It was one of the most fulfilling things (for you), and, you know, you did a good job. You helped so many. . . You’ve led a fulfilling life.

A Special Christmas Moment

I was mid-way in my walk Saturday morning when I saw that Kate was stirring in her bed. I went into check on her. She was lying there quietly pulling her hair. I went to her bedside and said, “Good morning. What are you up to?” She smiled and said she was “learning.” I asked about what. As she began to tell me, I sat down on the bed beside her. She began what turned out to be a one-hour conversation (and concert).

She started with a question, “Have you ever wondered how all these people around here (raising her arm and pointing around the room/neighborhood) got here?” I told her that would be interesting to know and that everybody has a story just the way we do. Then I started to tell her how we met in college. I didn’t get far before she took me in a different direction.

She talked about how difficult life would have been long ago and how hard people must have had to work. I picked up on that and mentioned how things must have been when the first settlers arrived – clearing land, building houses, hunting for game, and farming the land. She asked a number of questions related to the history of the US and the people who came here.

We had talked about fifteen minutes when I redirected the conversation back to our story. I told her about our first date and that we had attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah. She said, “What’s that?” I explained that it was a choral work composed by George Frederick Handel. She asked about the word “messiah.” I gave her a less-than-a-CliffsNotes concept of the word and explained that Handel’s work begins with the story of the Hebrew prophesy of a messiah and then the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Then I took my phone out of my pocket and played the London Philharmonic and Chorus performing Messiah. She recognized the music right away and could anticipate some of the words and phrases but had trouble with most of them. I went to my phone and googled the lyrics to the different songs and sang along with the chorus or just spoke the words that she couldn’t understand. She loved the music and wanted to understand it better. Off and on I explained the message and sang or read the lyrics. Realizing how long this might take, I eventually skipped to the “Hallelujah Chorus.” When it ended, I skipped again to the last two, “Worthy is the Lamb” and “Amen Chorus.” As the chorus ended, Kate said, “They should have included women.” She didn’t intend to be funny, but I thought it was. With little rational ability, she relies on her intuitive skills which are often wrong.

A good portion of that hour we held hands. Periodically, she squeezed my hand tightly during parts of the music she especially liked. It was a very moving experience for both of us. I was captivated by her enthusiasm as well as my memories of Christmases past. Kate no longer has those memories, but she was moved by the music as well as asking questions and getting answers even though she would never remember them. It was an especially interesting conversation since it involved her desire for information and appreciation of the music were so intertwined.

As in the past, we are celebrating the season with music. We have already been to opera night and jazz night at Casa Bella. Both of these featured Christmas music. This coming Thursday they will host a special evening of Christmas music. Yesterday afternoon we attended another Christmas music special at one of our local theaters. Of course, we have played music of the season at home. Although this will be our first Christmas without family, we are making the most of the season and Saturday’s conversation will be a highlight.

There is no way for me to know what Christmas will be like next year, but I am sure it will be very different. Whatever happens, I am grateful for so many great memories and the ability to create new ones this year.

A Strange Experience Last Night

As I reported in a previous post, Kate and I had a great time yesterday morning. Reading and taking a tour around the house was fun for both of us. When the sitter arrived, Kate acted glad to see her. Although she did want me to go with them to lunch, she didn’t show any uneasiness at my leaving for Rotary.

When I arrived home, I expected to see her resting on the sofa. Instead she was seated on the sofa across from the sitter who told me that Kate had been very talkative while I was gone. I don’t know how long they talked, but I got the impression it was a long time. I didn’t ask what they talked about. Last night I got a taste of this myself.

I got Kate ready for bed before I took my shower. Just after I got out, Kate opened the door to the bathroom. I was surprised that she was up and asked if she needed to use the bathroom. She said she was looking for the girls. I had no idea what she was talking about. I do know that once in a while she believes we either have company in the house or that someone is coming to visit us. I told her we were the only people in the house.

Then she began a conversation that last more than forty-five minutes, fifteen in the bathroom and another thirty in the bedroom where she asked me to sit in a chair while she took a seat on the bed a couple of feet away. She stumbled over her words so much that I couldn’t everything she said. I was able to make some sense of what she was communicating but not what motivated her to do so.

She thought she was in Texas and a member of a group that apparently had been all women but now included men. She talked about being on a committee that was charged with identifying women who might become new members of this “group” (club?). I gathered that the group might be a “leadership” organization of some type because she talked a lot about the quality of the women who had recently joined and the prospects who were being considered.

As she talked, she asked me if I knew “Richard.” I told her I did. She said, “He’s a nice guy. You would like him.” She went on further to talk about him. She said, “You might say ‘He’s my . . . She paused as she looked for the right words. I was eager to see if she would say “husband.” She said, “guy.” Then she added, “He might even be the one I marry.” She continued talking about her club and mentioned “Richard” several other times but couldn’t recall the name and didn’t for the remainder of the conversation.

She only stopped her conversation because I mentioned that I was going to get ready for bed. I got her in bed and told her I would be in bed beside her. As I said this, I wondered how she would react to that since she obviously didn’t recognize me as Richard. Would she think it strange that we would now go to bed together? Not at all. We got into bed as we always do except that we didn’t snuggle. I was afraid that would seem too abrupt for her. We slept well without any further conversation except that we had had another good day. Now I wonder what she talked about with Sandy. Was it the same kind of conversation? If so, that must have seemed especially strange to her. It seemed that way to me.

Friday Lunch Conversation

In my previous post I commented on how talkative Kate was this past week. We had another good conversation on Friday. It was an ordinary lunch at Applebee’s, but it was a time when we both felt the impact of the words we exchanged. We talked about how much each means to the other. We briefly touched on the subject of re-marrying if one of us died. At this point, that is something neither of us can imagine. Each of us expressed our feelings about the other and the difference that made in our lives.

Kate asked me about a number of things. She was soon overwhelmed with information and asked me to stop. She said, “You know I won’t be able to remember. I will have to ask you again.” I told her I would always be there to answer any of her questions. I also reminded her of a nickname she had given me in the early years after her diagnosis – “MM” for “My Memory.” It was no surprise that she hadn’t remembered. I would have been surprised if she had.

It was a moment when each of us spoke very candidly. She was clear about not remembering. I was equally clear in my commitment to be with her whatever the future holds. That commitment is an important source of strength for me. I believe it keeps me from dwelling on the sad aspects of living with Alzheimer’s. There is no doubt that caregiving is stressful, but it has its rewards. I think of it as a privilege to care for Kate during this last chapter of her life. Overall, I still believe things are going “remarkably well.”