Reflecting on Ken and Virginia’s Visit

Visits with friends and family have always been important to Kate and me. That’s true for most people; however, they have played a more significant role for us since Kate’s diagnosis. I’ve been especially mindful of that during Ken and Virginia’s visit with us the past few days. I hated to see them go. The fact that Ken was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s almost five and a half years ago has heavily influenced our relationship. It’s not that we talk a lot about dementia itself. We don’t do that at all in Kate’s presence since she no longer remembers that she has the disease. I don’t see any reason to tell her. We do, however, have such conversations before she gets up and when she rests.

What is more important is that they have such a clear understanding of what this journey is like. They may have picked up a few things from reading this blog, but most of that comes from their own personal experiences. That makes a difference in our interaction when we are together. When they are here, I have a feeling the three of us are partners as caregivers for Kate. They understand how to relate to her in a way that is difficult for just anyone else to do. I feel a load is taken from me. I still get her up and see that she is dressed and ready for the day, but when we are together, she interacts with the rest of us. The fact that we share a common set of experiences as part of the same family is also important. That expands the range of topics we can talk about in ways that couldn’t happen with even our closest friends.

Ken himself has taken steps to remain close to his sister. One of the best things he has done is to have given her the “Big Sister Album.” With 140 pages of photos covering their lives from Kate’s birth to January 2018, it has provided countless moments of pleasure for Kate since he gave it to her a year ago. We keep in on a coffee table in our family room. The cover photo of her and Ken when they were about four and two catches her eye almost every day.

Because it contains so many memories of their lives including their extended families, Virginia and I have enjoyed letting them take some time just to themselves to go through it. They looked at it for almost an hour yesterday afternoon. After dinner last night, they went through it again. This time Virginia sat across from them. When they had finished, Kate put it down. Then Ken said something about the cover picture. She didn’t know what he was talking about and showed her. She didn’t remember who the children were. Ken told her. She seemed confused about Ken in the photo and Ken sitting beside her. It didn’t appear that she remembered that they are the same person. As they moved to other photos, she did refer to Ken by name. I was never quite sure what she understood and didn’t.

As Kate continues to decline, there is another aspect to visits like this. Will this be their last visit together? None of us expects this to be the last, but we don’t know. Ken and Virginia are planning to return in the fall. How will Kate be getting along then? She won’t be the same . How will that affect our time together? Like so much of this journey, we just don’t know. All four of us are living in the moment. One step at a time. That has served us well thus far. I trust that it will in the future. In the meantime, I will savor the memories of a very pleasant visit. I wish Kate could do the same, but she enjoyed the moments.

A Great Day with Kate’s Brother and His Wife

I am glad to report that yesterday’s visit with Ken and Virginia went very well. I have no idea how much of the time Kate recognized the two of them by name and/or relationship. What I know is that she enjoyed herself.

After the previous night in which she was confused about them, yesterday’s experience was a welcome one. Ken and Virginia came over about an hour before I woke Kate. When I got her up, I told her they were here and that we were going to take them to lunch. She was resting comfortably. I know she could have stayed in bed much longer, but she got up easily. When I brought her into the family room, I said, “Guess who’s here? Your brother Ken and Virginia.” They greeted her warmly, and we were off to a good start.

I had talked with Virginia about our going to the zoo after lunch. She and I both had mentioned that to Kate who responded negatively. That isn’t unusual except that her response seemed to be stronger this time. In the past, I have found that once we are there, she enjoys herself. I think it’s a good place for her because we do it leisurely, and she always finds things that are interesting. That happened again yesterday.

When we arrived, I suggested that they get out while I parked the car. Kate said, “Can’t I go with you?” That was the only indication of any insecurity I noticed the entire day. Instead of trying to take an overall tour, we went directly to the aquarium and reptile center. Kate especially enjoyed the fish. Then we went to see the Koalas and feed the Lorikeets. The latter is always a hit. Kate said she was hungry. We suggested getting ice cream which we did after leaving the Lorikeet exhibit. It was a perfect day for the zoo. Although it was windy, it was sunny and in the 70s. It was pleasant walking around as well as breaking for ice cream. From the zoo, we came home. Ken and Virginia went back to their hotel. Kate rested as well.

About an hour later, we went to dinner and then had some additional time for conversation at home. That turned out to be especially good for Kate. As people our age are prone to do, we reflected on our lives and the way we felt about the way life had turned out for us. That led to a longer conversation about our families, especially our parents. That opened the floodgates for Kate who has a strong admiration for her mother.

I doubt that any of the “facts” she told us were things that actually happened, but they did convey the truth about her feelings for her mother and herself. What she said was very self-revealing. She felt a need to live up to her mother’s reputation and found that intimidating. She told us that her mother and some of her mother’s friends had encouraged her to be her own person. She also talked about her own school achievements, especially academic ones. (These were true.) She didn’t say anything about her Alzheimer’s, but I am sure she has felt a loss of self-esteem. She often says things like “I’m smart, you know.” Or “I’m not stupid.” Indeed, she is not, but Alzheimer’s has altered brain in a way that makes it appear that she is.

I felt that this was a conversation that she couldn’t have had with anyone else. I’ll never know if she remembered their names or their relationship to her, but she clearly felt a kinship with Ken and Virginia. They listened to her and facilitated her conversation. They understood about living in her world. At one point, Ken said something about their father. Kate said, “My father did (or said) that too.” Ken started to explain that they had the same father and realized that was unimportant and let it pass. This kind of facilitation worked. Kate talked more than in a long time. I was happy for her to have such a receptive, understanding audience.

Ken’s Arrival

Like so many things, especially when it comes to airline travel, Kate’s brother, Ken, and his wife, Virginia, experienced a delay in their arrival yesterday. We were to have had dinner with them last night, but their flight didn’t get here until close to 9:00. I regretted not having that time with them but invited them to drop by our house on the way to their hotel.

They arrived at the house just after 9:30. Kate and I were in the family room when I heard them at them at the door. I got up to greet them. Kate stayed in her chair where she was working a puzzle. Ken and Virginia entered the family room ahead of me and said hello to Kate. They hugged, and she greeted them warmly. Everything seemed perfectly normal. It was a beautiful reconnection with her brother.

We talked about the day’s travel experience and laughed. They were both able to take it in stride. We caught up with their children and grandchildren. We talked a little about our courtship and a letter that her mother had sent to my mother talking about our “friendship.” There were times when Kate was confused and asked for clarification and spoke very little. Otherwise, she was enjoying the conversation along with the rest of us.

After an hour, Ken and Virginia left for their hotel. As soon as they walked out, and I had closed the door, Kate whispered to me, “Who are they, and what are they doing here?” I told her their names. She didn’t recognize them. Then I explained that Ken is her brother, and Virginia is his wife. I was floored that Kate had not realized this. She must have spent the entire time without knowing who they are.

This experience is a good illustration of a couple of things. First, it shows that even someone (me) who knows her condition best makes mistakes in judgment. I know that her memory is gone, but in many ways she still seems very normal to me. That often leads me to expect more of her than I should.

Looking back, I see that I didn’t handle the situation the way I should have. We had been sitting in the family room for over an hour without my reminding her that they were on the way and would be here soon. Of course, she forgot about our earlier conversations about their upcoming visit. I can’t remember exactly what I said when I heard them at the back door. It was probably something like, “They’re here.” That would mean nothing to Kate. In my haste to welcome them, I didn’t even walk ahead and tell Kate, “Your brother Ken and Virginia are here.”

The experience is also an example of how poor Kate’s memory (rational ability) is and how well she is able to handle a social situation through her intuitive abilities. Ken and Virginia are well-informed about Kate’s current decline. I am sure they noticed some changes since their last visit. On the whole, however, my guess is that they didn’t sense just how poor her memory is. I will be eager to get a chance to find out today.

A Slow Start, But a Good Finish

Yesterday Kevin and Rachel celebrated their 25th anniversary. It was a special opportunity to be with them and the grandchildren. I only wish Kate could have understood and been able to enjoy it. She got off to a rocky start. It was one of those few days that she didn’t know who I was when went in to wake her. I told her we were going to have lunch with Kevin. Knowing she can’t remember who he is, I was careful to tell her that he is our son. I don’t believe that fully registered with her. As she sat on the side of the bed before standing up, she gave me a puzzled look and said, “Who are you?” I told her, but she still looked confused.

She asked me what she was supposed to “do now.” I told her it was time for a shower and walked her into bathroom. She showered and dressed more quickly than usual. I sent a text to Kevin letting him know she was up. His family was as well, and they came over for a short visit at the house before we all went to lunch.

Kate was not in a good mood when she woke up and wasn’t interested in being with company. That and the fact that she had had trouble the day before led me to take the lead in our conversation. TCU is very important to her. I drew attention to the number of us who had graduated from TCU or were current students. Of the remaining two grandchildren, our granddaughter will be a freshman in the fall. I also mentioned that it was a special day, Kevin and Rachel’s 25th anniversary. My efforts fell flat. Kate was not ready to engage in conversation. I believe it was a combination of her mood as well as some insecurity. We had lunch together at a nearby deli. Kate was mostly quiet. I felt she was uncomfortable. After lunch, Kate and I came back to the house while Kevin’s family did some sightseeing.

We were home about forty minutes before we left for Kate’s dental appointment. She frowned when I told her where we were going. I was surprised. She has always liked her dentist. She was quiet all the way. We waited a few minutes in the lobby before the hygienist came to take her to the back for her cleaning. Even though Kate has known her for years, she didn’t display any emotion of recognition or pleasure at seeing her.

In a little while, the hygienist returned to speak to me. She said Kate resisted the X-Ray procedure. When she got to the polishing part, Kate seemed frightened. The hygienist didn’t go any further. I explained that she had not been in a good mood since getting up. Ironically, I had been considering taking her back for a cleaning every month or two. That doesn’t seem like a good thing. Besides that, she said Kate seemed to be doing a good job brushing. I told her I was a little surprised but that she brushes her teeth a lot during the day as well as when she gets up at night. She left and brought Kate back to the reception area where I took care of the bill.

As we drove away from the dentist’s office, she said, “Are you hungry?” By this time it was less than three hours since we had eaten lunch, but it is not uncommon for her to think she is hungry even sooner than that after a meal. I understand from what I have learned from others that this is quite common for people with dementia (PWD). I told her I wasn’t hungry, but I thought it was a good time for a treat and mentioned going to Marble Slab. She liked the idea.

After tasting the first bite, she raved about how good it was. I agreed. She continued to express her pleasure until she had finished. She was a changed person. All signs of moodiness had vanished in an instant. She talked about having another serving, and I felt the same way but didn’t give in. I knew that we would soon be having a big dinner.

Coincidentally, I had read a relevant section of Dementia With Dignity by Judy Cornish earlier that morning. It is a companion piece to her Dementia Handbook in which she outlines the importance of focusing on the intuitive abilities of people with dementia (PWD). Her latest book gives more details on how to apply her theoretical framework presented in her earlier work.

The part I read emphasizes the importance of managing the moods of those with dementia. She notes that PWD regularly fail at tasks and conversation and are unable to “understand where they are, why they are there, and who they are with.”  She goes on to say that these experiences often lead to negative feelings. Her point is that caregivers can play a major role in redirecting their moods. I hadn’t been successful with that when we were with Kevin’s family earlier in the day, but taking her out for ice cream did the trick.

That was good preparation for dinner. We came back to the house where she wanted to rest. Not long after that, Kevin sent a text asking if we were home. He and the children came over for an hour or so. We played Mille Bornes while Kate continued to rest. They left around 5:00 to get ready for our 6:00 dinner.

The dinner went very well even though it was a challenge for Kate to keep up with the conversation. She had to ask us to repeat ourselves a number of times. After I offered a toast to Kevin and Rachel, she leaned over to me and whispered, “Whose anniversary is it?” Despite these things, I was encouraged she was trying to understand and didn’t appear to be withdrawn.

So the day ended on a high note. I am glad about that but also disappointed that Kate was unable to fully enjoy what was a very special visit with Kevin’s family.

Day Two With Kevin’s Family

There is no way to fully understand the way Kate (or anyone else with dementia) is experiencing the world around her. I believe other caregivers try their best to do so. I know I do. Right now, I am wondering how to describe what Kate experienced yesterday. One thing I know is that being in a group is challenging for people with dementia. It certainly is for Kate. That isn’t hard for me to understand. I think most people feel a little awkward in a group where they don’t know anyone.  It has to be even more difficult for someone who doesn’t know why she is there, what she is supposed to do, or have any memories that would help her engage in conversation. Kate’s general approach is to be more subdued in a group. On a few occasions, she is more talkative as if she were trying to make sure she is noticed. That’s the way she was the day Kevin and his family arrived.

Yesterday she was more subdued, and I would say somewhat uneasy. When I woke her, I told her we were going to the zoo with Kevin and his family. She frowned. I didn’t think much of that. She has done that before when I have suggested a trip to the zoo; however, she has always enjoyed it once we are there. I am glad to say that she did yesterday as well. It began as we walked from the parking lot to the entrance when she saw the spring flowers that were starting to bloom. There were many others throughout the zoo that she enjoyed as well.

Of course, the animals are the big attraction. That was true for Kate. She took special pleasure in feeding the Lorikeets from a cup of nectar. That has been a highlight of our other visits over the past year. She also got a kick out of the mother gorilla who was nursing her infant, sea lions and tortoises. This was an easy experience for her. We walked a good distance, and she was ready to leave when we did. I felt good about it because she got in more walking than she is accustomed to, and she also enjoyed everything she saw. The zoo provides an experience that taps into her intuitive abilities. She may not remember names, places, or events, but she can appreciate the sights she sees.

There is something else that made the zoo work well. We split up with Kevin’s family. That meant she could walk at a leisurely pace and stop to look at the animals as long as she wanted. She wasn’t under any pressure.

From the zoo, we went to dinner. She was much more subdued. Sitting around the table with the seven us didn’t lend itself to a group conversation. She said very little and seemed a little bored. When we got home, she continued to be quiet. At first, she looked at a magazine. Then I brought the iPad to her, and she worked puzzles while Kevin and our grandson, Taylor, played Mille Bornes, and the rest of us talked.

I am still trying to grasp what Kate may have been thinking. I know she couldn’t remember that they were her family. I had been telling her quite some time that they were coming. Off and on yesterday, I also mentioned who they are, but those were very isolated instances. Her memory lasts only seconds. She must have asked herself, “Who are these people and why are they here?” I need to be more creative with ways to make her part of the group.

Visiting with Keven’s Family

On their way into town yesterday, Kevin and his family met us at a restaurant near our home. Kate behaved differently than she usually does. If we had been with strangers, I would have quickly slipped one of “My Wife Has Alzheimer’s” cards to someone who could pass it around the table. There was no need for that since everyone was aware of her diagnosis. Part of the problem may have been the noise level in the restaurant. That made it difficult to hear and understand what people said. Frequently, she had to ask us to repeat things. It was more than that, however. It was one of just a handful of occasions when Kate appeared a bit like a child who might be vying for attention in a group in which she felt overlooked. I think this might be a sign of insecurity, and she responds by trying to be more outspoken than usual. If she experienced any insecurity, it was not reflected in her disguising her memory problems and confusion. I believe that everyone heard her ask my name and hers at least once while we were waiting for our food. They may or may not have noticed that she asked my advice about what to order. Together we decided on the blueberry pancakes, but she forgot and several other times asked about what she could get.

After lunch, we went back to the house for the balance of the afternoon. The grandchildren quickly noticed that an 8 ½ x 10 photo of our eldest grandson, Brian, stood out among an assortment of smaller family photos on the entertainment center. That turned out to be a good thing because it eased us into discussion of who all the people were. Kate actually took the lead in that when she suggested a game in which each of us would pick out a photo and tell the rest of the group who the person or people were. I thought that was especially interesting in light of the fact that she normally has difficulty identifying the people herself.

As we started to pick up on the idea, it was clear that Kate was confused. Since I knew each of the people, I jumped in and showed each picture to Kate and the group and explained who was in the picture. Her Alzheimer’s was obvious in her failure to recognize family in the photos.

The Big 12 playoff game between Kansas and Baylor came on at 3:00. We went to our bedroom to watch the game on a bigger screen. Kate remained behind working on her iPad. I felt her staying behind was a sign of her not feeling a part of the group. Thinking back, I suspect that she didn’t understand where we were going and why. There are many things she doesn’t pick up in group conversations. I went back to the family room and invited her to join us. She did, but she also chose to lie down on the bed and nap while we watched the game.

After the game, Kevin’s family left to check in with a friend with whom they are staying. Kate didn’t make any effort to say goodbye. When they were gone, I asked if she would like to get up. She didn’t and remained in bed until I told her it was time for us to meet everyone for dinner. We ate at a pizza place where we used to take Kevin and our daughter Jesse when they were young. At the restaurant, Kate again seemed a little more childlike. I believe she still felt a little insecure, but she got along all right.

When we got home, I turned on YouTube, and we watched video segments of Andre Rieu concerts. She worked on her iPad for a while and then stopped to watch the videos. She seemed to enjoy herself and talked about what a nice day it had been as she got to bed.

We won’t be getting together until this afternoon when we go to the zoo. Kate usually enjoys seeing the animals. I am optimistic the afternoon will go well.

Our Last Day in Memphis

On all our previous trips to see Jesse and her family we have gotten up early, or at least not late, on Christmas morning. That meant “really” early when the children were younger. As they’ve grown older, we have been ready to open presents between 8:00 and 10:00. This year was clearly different. Ron and Randy knew all the presents they were going to receive, so there were no surprises in store. In addition, Kate’s sleeping pattern caused us to get together whenever she was ready. Since we were not eating our Christmas meal until 5:00, I let Kate sleep as long as she wanted. She got up close to 1:30, and we arrived at Jesse’s at 3:30. I had told them to go ahead and open their presents, so it didn’t affect their plans.

That made for a very short, but nice, day for us. We enjoyed being with Jesse and Greg as they prepared the meal. Most of the time the boys were upstairs playing with their new Christmas presents. Jesse’s turkey turned out to be superb, just the way it has been the past couple of times she has cooked it for us. At the end of the meal, we took our plates to the kitchen. Jesse asked Kate if she would like her to take her plate. Kate accepted. As Jesse walked to the kitchen, I said, “Isn’t it nice to have your daughter take care of you like that?” Kate said, “My daughter?” I said, “Yes, your daughter.” She said, “What’s her name?” Before Jesse returned to the room, she asked her name two more times. Despite that, Kate handled herself beautifully. She participated in our conversation and didn’t say anything unusual. She didn’t walk around the downstairs rooms again, but she did comment on how beautiful the house is.

It wasn’t long after dinner that we came back to the hotel where we relaxed over an hour before Kate wanted to go to bed. She was in bed by 9:00. That should bode well for her getting up earlier today. We plan to meet Jesse and her family either at the hotel or some other place for lunch and then leave around 1:30.

I had wondered for a long time if we could make this trip. I am glad to say that it worked out well. It was very different from those in the past. We had considerably less time with Jesse and her family than before. Some of that arose simply because we stayed in a hotel rather than at their house. Just as important was the fact that we paced ourselves. I don’t think we were all together more than three hours at any one time. That was good for Kate who usually likes to do something different after a couple of hours.

Kate was able to enjoy herself. There was only one time when she seemed a little restless. That was yesterday afternoon just before we ate. For more than an hour, we had been sitting at the bar looking over the kitchen while chatting with Jesse and Greg as they prepared the meal. Kate got up and walked into the family room. I followed her. She asked me when we were leaving. I told her we would go right after dinner. Apart from that, she appeared quite comfortable if not enthusiastic. Of course, she had been very enthusiastic about Jesse’s house and Christmas decorations our first night there.

As for future travel, I believe I will limit it to one-night stays. I’m not sure how many of those we will have. If Kate continues to sleep late, going to visit Ellen in Nashville becomes a little more challenging. If we stayed overnight, that would make the trip less rushed. At the moment, I am not planning anything. I’ll just see how things unfold in the months ahead.

The only family event that I know of that could prompt another trip is to Texas is our granddaughter’s high school graduation. I would like to make that, but I don’t believe it is in the cards for us. I hope I am wrong.

Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas morning, and I am thinking about all the households with young children who have been up for hours and eagerly unwrapping packages. Those are great moments to treasure. They don’t last forever. The children often sleep a little later as they get older. Life changes for all of us as we age. We don’t celebrate the season in the same way we did when we were younger.

One thing doesn’t change. We still have our memories of Christmas. I remember getting my Red Ryder BB Rifle when I was about nine or ten years old. It’s hard for me to believe that my parents allowed me to play with it around the neighborhood at that age. I also remember being excited over the Schwinn Black Phantom I received when I was twelve or thirteen. Those were among my most special Christmas gifts as a child.

The memories of the Christmas season that mean the most to me these days are the ones that Kate and I have shared. We had our first date on December 19, 1961. We went to a performance of Handel’s Messiah. December 19, 1962, we became engaged. On Christmas day six days later, we announced our engagement to Kate’s extended family at the family Christmas gathering at Kate’s home.

Over the years, we have enjoyed the season in different ways and in different places. We spent our first Christmas together with a trip to my home in West Palm Beach. That was Kate’s first time there. We spent our only Christmas alone in Madison, Wisconsin, during my first year in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin.

I have many treasured memories of Christmas Days we spent with each of our families. Until the children were around five or six, we rotated between our parents’ homes. After that, our parents came to us. As our children graduated from college and started their own families, we followed pretty much the same custom. We were introduced to the pleasure of watching grandchildren enjoy Christmas with the excitement that is unique to children.

Kate and I also started taking vacation trips during the first or second week of December. Three or four times we have enjoyed the Christmas season in New York City. That’s my favorite time of the year to be there. We have also enjoyed Christmas season travel to London, Paris, Vienna, and several places in Germany.

This Christmas we find ourselves in a very different place. Next year we won’t travel to be with our children and their families. There is no way for me to know exactly what Kate will be like next year, but she is likely to continue her decline.

Kate no longer has the memories of Christmas that have been so special to us. I tell her about them, and she experiences momentary pleasure in being reminded. She can’t, however, retain and reflect on them. I am sad about this. I’m sad for her, and I’m sad for me; however, there is still good news. Even though her world is growing smaller, she continues to enjoy life. I know from other caregivers that moments of pleasure often continue for a long time. Whatever happens, I retain my memories of Christmas and the joy we have experienced during this season, and I am grateful.

My wish for you is that you continue to create your own Christmas memories to treasure now and for the days to come. Merry Christmas.

Christmas Eve

We had a nice day yesterday. It matched the activity level we have at home. We got out and had good times with Jesse and her family, but we had breaks that make it easier for Kate.

She got up before 10:30. That got us off to a good start. I don’t like having to wake her. That worked well for our plans to meet Jesse, Greg, and the boys for lunch at a new diner downtown. We met them at 12:30 and had a good time as well as a good lunch. Kate got a very large Turkey Club sandwich. It was about 4” high. I thought she might have trouble getting through half of it, but she ate “the whole thing.” She did it her way starting at the top slice of bread, pulling off one layer at a time and working her way down to the bottom. She wasn’t unusually talkative, but she enjoyed herself. All of us had a good time.

It was after 2:00 before we left. Jesse asked if we wanted to go back to their house or to the hotel. I decided to go back to the hotel for a little break and join them at the house around 4:00. Breaks like that seem to work well for Kate, and Jesse needed to run some errands. I tend to think of these breaks as something solely for Kate, but I also think they are for me. When we are in social situations, I feel a bit of pressure to be attentive to her as well as to enjoy myself with those we are with.

After the break, we returned to Jesse’s house for about an hour. Once again, Kate took great interest in the house. She made the same circle from room to room that she had done the previous evening. For her, it was like the first time she had seen it. She told me that it looked “much better than when we lived here.” That was almost identical to something she had said about our own house a couple of months ago when she took an hour going through it the same way she did at Jesse’s.

As the sun began to set, we went to see the Christmas lights at a seniors nursing facility a twenty-minute drive from their house. They have a large piece of property circled with a light display that Jesse described as “tastefully tacky.” As a fund raiser, they open the yard to the public. I expected Kate enjoy it more than she did. She didn’t say much. It was certainly nothing like her reaction to the décor and Christmas decorations at Jesse’s. From there we drove back into town for dinner at a small Italian restaurant near Jesse’s home. It’s a great neighborhood restaurant. We’ve eaten there quite a few times over the years and enjoyed it. It was perfect for last night.

When we got back to Jesse’s, it was 8:00. I thought it was a good time for us to say good night. We went back to the hotel where I watched a portion of the Broncos/Raiders game while Kate worked on her iPad. She was in bed before 9:30 though she was still awake when I joined her at 10:00. It had been a nice day.

She got up at 3:00 to go to the bathroom. I had trouble getting back to sleep after that. The last time I looked at the clock it was 4:05. I made up that hour by sleeping until 6:45. Continue reading “Christmas Eve”

Happy Moments: Part 1

Earlier this morning I mentioned that Kate was in a very good mood yesterday. That made it a good travel day. I never imagined what was in store after we arrived at Jesse’s house. The best was yet to come.

I certainly didn’t expect it as we were about to leave the hotel. She asked me where we were going. When I told her we were going to Jesse’s, she frowned. I asked what was wrong. She said, “I thought we were going to have dinner with just the two of us.” I told her I would like that too but that she would love seeing Jesse, our daughter, as well as our grandchildren, Randy and Ron. I am sure that she had forgotten that Jesse is our daughter, or she would have been more eager to go.

We ate dinner soon after getting there. Jesse, a vegetarian, had smoked a brisket on their Big Green Egg. This seems a bit ironic for a vegetarian, but her husband, Greg, travels a good bit, and her boys are meat eaters. She is accustomed to preparing non-vegetarian meals. The key, however, is that she takes great interest in entertaining and food. She cooks all kinds of things. Some time ago, she had actually talked about starting a catering service.

After our dinner, Kate started walking around the downstairs portion of the house while Jesse and Greg cleaned up the dishes. It was very much like the time she spent an hour walking around our house one night after we returned home from dinner. She asked Jesse how long they had lived in the house. Then she commented on what a nice house it is. The next thing I knew she had gone back to the dining room. She reacted as though this were the first time she had ever seen it, and we had just spent at least an hour eating and visiting in it. I walked with her as she took in all the Christmas decorations as well as the furniture and design of the house. She was amazed at what she saw and enthusiastic in her praise of Jesse’s house. I was never clear whether she realized that this was a house that Jesse and Greg had built or if she thought they were renting or had bought the house from someone else that had built it. Sometimes she said, “They really thought of everything.” Other times, she said, “The builder really thought of everything.”

Kate noticed most of the decorations, but I pointed out some that she seemed to miss. When she finished the circle from the kitchen to the dining room, to the living room, to the family room and back to the kitchen, she went around again. Each time she entered a room it was like the first time she had ever seen it. Several times she said, “I wish we had seen this house before we bought ours.” Off the kitchen there is door that leads to the laundry room and to the pantry. The door to the pantry was open enough for her to see in. The door to the pantry was closed, and she didn’t open it. She did, however, look at this area several times and called me to look. She commented on what a good job the builder had done. One time I opened the door to the pantry. That gave her something else to praise.

I don’t know how long this went on. It was quite a while, perhaps twenty or thirty minutes. She had a wonderful time. Jesse and I had just as much fun watching Kate enjoy herself. It was a surreal experience.

We left a short time later. As we backed out of Jesse’s driveway, Kate said, “That’s a beautiful house. Who is that lady?” I told her that was Jesse. She said, “She is really nice.” She asked her last name, and I told her. She asked about the man. I told her that was Greg, Jesse’s husband. Then she said, “How do we know them?” I hesitated a moment. What should I say? Then I told her that she is our daughter. She was taken aback. I immediately felt that I should have said something else. I could tell it bothered her momentarily that she hadn’t remembered that Jesse is her daughter, but it didn’t last long. That was the beginning of another story.