Is our glass “half-full” or is it “half-empty”?

When I began this journal (now a blog), I wanted to create an account of our lives since Kate’s diagnosis. That is the reason for my providing so much information about our daily activities. In a way, I wanted my posts to paint an accurate picture of the struggles we have faced and how we have adapted. Looking back, I think I was expecting more problems to deal with and fewer moments of happiness. As it has turned out, it is the “Happy Moments” rather than struggles that have filled our lives.

I often worry that whatever I say will lead some to believe that our lives are either “good” or “bad.” The reality is that our lives are a complicated mixture of both. Even now, the good far outweighs the bad. I do understand, however, that the way I have adapted to Kate’s changes permits me to see it that way. If I were looking at our lives today through the lens of 2011, I would be depressed. I am not depressed today. I have learned to appreciate many little things that I previously would have thought either insignificant or sad.

Let me give you a few examples of happy moments we have shared in the past few days. As we walked out of the bedroom the other day, she noticed a picture of our daughter, Jesse, in her wedding dress. It sits on the dresser, and Kate frequently stops to look at it. During the past two or three years, I don’t ever recall her recognizing that it is Jesse, but that doesn’t stop her from appreciating it. When I told her it was her daughter, she was moved to tears. She commented on the smile and her eyes, something that draws her attention in all photos. She asked her name. After I told her, she wanted to know more.

We spent at least five minutes or more looking at the picture. Then I told her we had a picture of Jesse’s twin boys in the family room and motioned her to follow me. This is another of her favorite pictures. She was thrilled to see it. She wanted to know their names. She got the impression they were her children. I told her they were Jesse’s boys. Then she wanted to know about their father. It wasn’t long before I was giving her far more information than she could digest. We went away without her ever having the understanding she wanted, but she had enjoyed herself. And I loved showing her the pictures. We do this regularly now. It’s not something we did much before, but it means much more to her now. I get a special kick out of her interpretation of the personal qualities of Jesse and the boys.

As we walked through the family room, she was captivated by the beauty of the flowering plants on the patio and the trees behind our property. She said hello to the ceramic cat that sits on the floor before we enter the kitchen. She looked at the photos of our son and her father that are also part of her daily ritual. This is always a good way to start the day.

During dinner, she said she wanted to tell me something. She said, “I know how much you do for me, and I want to thank you.” This began a series of comments that continued when we got in the car after dinner. She conveyed that she couldn’t live without me. She said some nice things about me to our server. As we left the restaurant, she said, “I wanted to tell you something else. I don’t know where all this is going. I wonder if we should get married.” I said, “I would love to marry you.” She said, “You would? That makes me happy.” I walked around my side of the car. We didn’t say anything more about marriage, but we talked about our relationship all the way home.

These are just a few of the many experiences we have on a daily basis. I would been sad if they had occurred eight years ago, but I have always wanted her to be happy. That is especially true now, and she is almost always happy. What I didn’t know then that I know now is that happiness is possible even after memory disappears, and I don’t have to look far to find things that make her happy.

I wish Kate had all of her rational abilities back – her memory for people, places, events and how to accomplish the many daily tasks of living. That’s not going to happen. From that standpoint, life is not going well for us now. On the other hand, being happy is of primary importance for both of us, so Kate and I would say that our glasses are still quite full.

A Better Day, But Moments of Confusion

The way yesterday started was far better than the day before. I woke Kate just before 11:00. She smiled and was at ease. She was enjoying the music I had selected, but she wasn’t eager to get out of bed. Once she was up, everything went smoothly.

While we were eating, she said, “I don’t even know who my parents are?” She said this without any obvious sense of anxiety. It was said as though she were telling a friend about her having grown up without parents. As I told her about them, she was amazed and said, “I didn’t know any of this.” This conversation continued off and on throughout our meal.

We also had a slight rough spot during lunch as I was eating a bowl of tomato basil soup. When our server placed it on the table, she said the bread was better when dipped in the soup. Kate was eating bread at the time. I asked Kate if she would like to try it. She dipped her bread in the soup and then asked me to put some soup on her bread plate. I did, but she didn’t use it. Thinking she might not have noticed, I asked if she was going to dip her bread in it. She didn’t understand what I was talking about. I explained that she had asked me to put some soup on her plate for her bread, but she wasn’t using it as a dipping sauce. She felt as though I was scolding her, got a sad look on her face, and apologized. I told her she hadn’t done anything wrong; it was just a case of miscommunication. She was hurt, but it didn’t last long.

On the way home, she mentioned that she didn’t know her name. I told her and then mentioned her parents. She wanted to know their names. After telling her, she asked if I knew them. Then she asked if they knew her. I explained that they did and that they had loved her. Then she asked if she had ever known them. She showed none of the fright she had the previous day though she clearly conveyed a sense of regret about not remembering them.

She was tired when we got home and wanted to lie down as soon as we walked in the house. I got my laptop to jot down a few notes and sat in a chair across from her. In a few minutes, she began to cry. I walked over to her and asked what was wrong and if the tears were those of joy or sadness. The answer was joy. She said, “This is the first time I have ever really felt at home.” I didn’t push her to explain. I was just glad she was happy.

Before going to bed, she spent quite a while, at least twenty minutes flossing and brushing her teeth. She said she thought she needed to see a “doctor.” She feels something caught between her teeth and can’t get it out. I helped her floss but didn’t detect anything. I don’t know why, but I don’t see a dental appointment on my calendar. We always make one at the end of each visit. I’ll check on that this morning.

After she was in bed, she started pulling her hair as she does so often. It wasn’t long before she said, “Richard, (yes, she called me by name).” I said, “Yes.” She said, “I want to thank you for your patience.” I told her I was just happy to be able to help her. A few minutes later, she called my name again and said, “You know what makes it all worthwhile?” I said, “What?” She said, “You.” I said, “And you make my life complete. We made a good decision when we decided to get married.” In another few minutes, she said, “Hey!” I said, “What?” She said, “I’m glad to be here with you.” She repeated this five minutes later. This should give you a taste of one of the reasons I say that we have gotten along “remarkably well.” She is so appreciative, and I am working to be sure that she stays that way.

She was talkative when I joined her in bed. She continued to pull strands of hair for a long time. She said it was a lot of work to do this, but pays off in the end. She also talked about her teeth. She said it’s a small problem when compared with the big problems that so many other people face. She was very relaxed and happy. It was a great way to end the day.

Kate’s Mood and Happy Moments

As Kate continues to exhibit more of the symptoms associated with dementia, I find myself entering a new phase myself. I’m not sure what to call it. I could say it is just adapting, but that isn’t precise enough. It involves accepting her decline for what it is – the loss of all her rational abilities. I can’t change that. I can feel sad as I often do, but I want to do something more constructive. That leaves me to focus on making her happy. I’m not always able to do that, at least in a very short span of time, but she is content and happy most of the time. That is particularly true after we get by the “waking up period.” That remains the most challenging time. In most cases, by lunch she is in a better mood. Afternoons and evenings almost always go well.

Yesterday was a perfect example. She was up before 8:30. She appeared to recognize me as her husband, but she was a bit confused about where we were. I had gone to her room when the video cam alerted me that she was beginning to get up. When I got to her, I said good morning and asked if I could help her. The first thing she said was, “Yes, get me out of here.” Then she said, “Where are we?” I told here we were in our house and that she would recognize it when she was a little more awake. She didn’t show any excitement or interest about being at home. She was still too confused for that and wasn’t in a happy mood.

After her trip to the bathroom, we went back to the bedroom to dress. She was very cooperative in getting dressed. She still shows some signs of independence, but she likes some kinds of help. She prefers that I put her socks on for her. I suspect that is motivated by convenience. She doesn’t have to lean down. She just sticks her feet out like a child, and I slip them on. When she has taken a shower she likes it when I help drying her back and legs and blow drying her hair. Sometimes she wants me to brush her hair as well.

When we were about to finish, she asked, “Who are you?” I gave her my name and said told her I was her husband. She didn’t believe that. I said, “Just think of me as a friend.” She liked that better. I brushed her hair. She thanked me. Then he said, “Of course, you get paid for this.” I said, “I do?” She said, “You should.” In a few minutes she made another reference to my being paid for helping her. Could she be thinking of me as a paid caregiver?

At lunch, she said something I thought was funny. Without making any reference to what we had said earlier, I asked if she knew how long we had been married, She immediately said, “Too long.” I said, “Good reply. You’re funny.” She said, “I learned it from you.” Her mood had changed. She was happy.

After lunch, she wanted to rest. That was no surprise since she had gotten up at 8:30. The sitter arrived while she was resting but not asleep. I didn’t say I was leaving until after Mary arrived. When I mentioned I was leaving for the Y, Kate didn’t act alarmed nor did she say anything like “Why don’t you stay with us?” She stood up and greeted Mary warmly.

When I returned, Kate was still on the sofa. She smiled when she saw me and was very happy. She told me she was glad to see me. I said I was glad to see her as well. After Mary was gone, she repeated multiple times how glad she was to see me. We got ready to leave for dinner. In the car, she again said she was glad to see me. By this time, she was in a very good mood. That continued for the balance of the evening. I didn’t have to work at keeping her happy. It’s just that rough edge that we sometimes have at the beginning of some days.

Her mood when she wakes is something I can’t control, but I can focus on what happens after that. So far, her mood has always improved in a relatively short period of time, and the afternoons and evenings are the most predictable Happy Moments. Maybe I should think of this as a “Mood Management Phase.” That’s what it’s all about now.

Kate may be unsure of who I am, but she believes I am important to her.

I don’t have a clear idea how often Kate remembers that I am her husband. I know it is often enough that I have grown accustomed to her not remembering. For most caregivers this is one of the saddest things that happens as one’s spouse reaches the late stages of Alzheimer’s. That is particularly true the first few times it occurs. That has been my personal experience.

By now I have adapted and accept it. I take comfort in the fact that Kate still recognizes me as someone with whom she is familiar and is important to her. Not a day goes by without my having experiences that tell me that is so. Here are several that happened during the past forty-eight hours.

Night before last when I told her it was time to get ready for bed, she wanted to know where the bathroom was. During the past six months or so, I can’t remember a time when she didn’t ask me that. I led her to the bathroom and pointed out the toilet. I was about to leave her when she told me she wanted me to stay. This, too, is something that is becoming common. She is very unsure of what to do each step. She often asks me, “What next?” I stayed. Before washing her hands, she motioned me to come closer and whispered, “Does she know I’m a woman?” I told her I didn’t know who she was talking about but she and I were the only ones in the house. That worked; she didn’t say anything more. Sometimes she seems to recognize quickly that she has believed something that wasn’t so.

This was another time when she couldn’t understand my instructions about washing her hands. I put soap in her hands and washed them myself. This is just another illustration of her dependence. It’s not consistent, but it is increasing more rapidly than in the past.

After she was in bed, she told me that she was glad I was with her. She thought we were in a strange place and said it was a nice room, but she was feeling better knowing I was there. She began to “work” on her hair, pulling stands from her scalp to the ends. She asked me if it was all right for her to start on the right side and then do the left side of her head. I said, “That would be fine.”

I told her I was going to the family room for a few minutes and that I was not leaving her alone. As I started to walk out the door, she said, “What should I call you if I need you?” I told her my name was Richard. She said, “Okay, Mr. Richard.” I said, “You don’t have to call me mister. You can just call be Richard. She said, “What will he say?” I asked who she was talking about. She said, “You know – the other man.” I told her we were the only people in the house, and it was all right if she just called me Richard. She said, “Okay.” As you know this was far from the first time she had forgotten my name and no doubt our relationship, but over the past week this seems to have occurred for longer periods of time.

When I got into bed a little later, she was still awake. We talked for a few minutes. Then I told her I was going to sleep and said, “I love you.” She laughed. From past experience I knew that she didn’t realize that we are married, just friends. I said, “You usually say you love me too.” She said, “I’m not ready for that.” I said, “You would rather that we just be friends.” She said, “For right now anyway.” We talked a little longer. Then I told her I was ready to go to sleep. I paused and said, “Good night, I love you.” She laughed again.

Yesterday was a day for the sitter. I was relieved when she got up about 8:30. I didn’t have to worry about getting her up. She went back to bed after taking a shower. I let her stay there until 9:30 when I got her dressed. Then we went to Panera. I think this was the third or fourth time in about ten days. We arrived home just ahead of Sandy. I hadn’t said a word to Kate about my leaving. When I got my things together, I told her I was off to Rotary and the Y. She said, “How long are you going to be gone?” I told her it wouldn’t be long, that I was going to Rotary and then to the Y.” She said, “We’ll see.” She wasn’t making much of a protest, but I knew she wished I would stay.

When I go home, she was seated in a chair with her iPad, and Sandy was standing beside her. Kate said, “Oh, good.” It turned out that she had gotten into the store again and Sandy was about to help her get back to her puzzles. Sandy had probably helped her with this a number of times while I was gone. It happens frequently, and Sandy knows how to solve the problem.

Kate is almost always glad to see me. What was interesting this time was just how relieved she was. She breathed a very loud sigh of relief. Then she introduced me to Sandy as her cousin and said, “His name is Richard.” I was a bit surprised that she got my name right after slipping on our relationship. When Sandy left, she said, “I’m so glad to see you.”

Last night we had an experience like the one the previous night when she didn’t realize we were married. We were talking after I had gotten in bed. She said, “This is a nice room.” I said, “I think so too.” Then she said, “I’ve seen worse.” I chuckled. It wasn’t long before we said good night, and I said, “I love you.” Then we had a repeat of the previous night, but she did say, “You’re a nice guy. I like you a lot.” I said, “So you’re glad I’m here.” With emphasis, she said, “Definitely.” That will carry me a long way.

The Intensity of Kate’s Intuitive Abilities

I have often mentioned how much pleasure Kate and I receive because of her intuitive abilities. Recently, I indicated that they seem even more intense now than they used to be. Several things have happened in the past few days that reinforce my belief that they really are more intense now than before. All of them involve behaviors I have previously observed, but they were so much stronger than normal I wanted to pass them along. They are all experiences that involve her emotional response to visual stimuli.

Many of them involve her feelings about trees and flowering plants. She seems enraptured wherever she sees them. The plants on our patio and the trees on the neighbor’s property behind our house get most of her attention. She stops to look at them almost every time she passes through our family room. It also includes the flora she sees whenever we are in the car. This occurs even in areas that I wouldn’t say are especially beautiful, like some of the areas on either side of a highway. One of those instances happened at Chalupas Monday night. As we entered the restaurant, she saw two large pots with a grassy plant similar to liriope. They looked desperate for water. She immediately reacted to them and told the server who greeted us how beautiful they were. They have been in the same place for as long as I can remember, but this was the first time she has reacted to them.

The strength of her feelings is illustrated in a variety of other ways. She bought a ceramic cat many years ago that she used to keep in the bath off our our laundry room. It was something of a surprise to visitors who saw it at the base of the toilet. I moved it to the family room sometime in the past year or so. It now resides on the floor near the doorway from the family room to the kitchen. We pass by it every time we leave the house. It is only recently that she has taken special notice of it. Now she stops and says hello each time she walks by. A couple of weeks ago, she said we ought to give him a name. The next time she walked by him I told her his name is Pepper for Dr. Pepper since that is her favorite drink. She can’t remember the name, but she always likes it when I tell her.

She also takes greater interest in family photos each day. Two of those are of our daughter in her wedding gown that sit on a dresser in our bedroom. They catch her eye every morning. She doesn’t remember they are of our daughter, but she loves looking at her and her smile. The other pictures are grouped together as we leave the family room. Two of them are of our son when he was a child. Another is a picture of me when I was about twelve. There is one more of her father. It has become a ritual to stop and look at these photos each time we go out. She surprised me yesterday morning when she saw her father. She said, “I know who that is.” I said, “Who?” She said, “My father.” That was the first time I recall her recognizing this photo of him. On several occasions recently, she has picked up the photos of our son and asked if she could take them with us. I let her take them to the car. Once we are in the car, she usually gives them to me. I find a secure place to put them and return them to the house when we get home. The walk through our family room is turning out to be something that energizes her as we leave.

Night before last, she went to the bathroom before we went to dinner. She noticed a ceramic container with artificial flowers beside the sink. She had purchased it on our last trip to Fort Worth. Until last night, I don’t remember her saying anything about it. But she brought it to me. She said she loved it and asked if she could take it with us. I told her she could. It remained in the car until we got home when I brought it inside and put it back where she had found it. She not only received pleasure from seeing it but also being able to take it with her.

Another example occurred after lunch yesterday. As I turned into the driveway, she was puzzled about why we were here. I said, “This is our house. You’ll recognize it once we are inside.” I gave her a tour of the house similar to what I have done a couple of times in the past but much shorter. I pointed out a portrait of her grandfather and another of her mother, wedding photos of her and our daughter Jesse, and other artwork. She raved about everything she saw but never responded as though she had ever been here before.

When we circled around to the family room, she wanted to rest. She lay down on the sofa looking toward the backyard. She responded to that with enthusiasm. In addition, she looked around the room, and commented on how much she said she liked it. She said, “This is beautiful, and I haven’t even seen the rest of the house.” I told her I would be glad to show it to her. She said, “Not right now. Maybe tomorrow. I just want to rest.” And that is just what she did for the next three hours. She started working on her iPad but put it down after a few minutes. She was never asleep. I offered to go through family photo books, but she preferred to lie there. Like the day before, she was content. By the way, the battery on her iPad was at 81% of capacity this morning when I brought it to the kitchen to be charged. That makes three days in a row that the iPad hasn’t seen much use.

Experiences like these are not only important for her, but they are for me as well. It is sad that the tour of half the house did not jog her memory at all. On the other hand, she enjoyed the house tour. It’s an illustration of how each of us is still able to provide pleasure for the other. At this stage of her Alzheimer’s, that is priceless.

The Pleasure of Intuitive Thought

I can’t stress enough how much pleasure Kate and I have enjoyed because she has retained her intuitive abilities. They are the ones that depend on her direct experience with the world around her through her senses. She doesn’t have to remember the names of people, places, and things to enjoy beauty, music, and connections with people. I am encouraged by the knowledge that they can continue much longer than we imagine.

When we visited Ellen in her memory care facility the other day, I took notice of the way in which the residents expressed their pleasure with the singing led by Emily, the music lady who visits the facility two Sunday afternoons a month. With the possible exception of Ellen, all of the residents are much further along in their dementia than Kate, but they were delighted by the music. Only one of the ten or so residents took the floor and danced, but one other remained in her seat tapping her feet and her hands with the beat. There were many smiles around the room. It was a moment of pleasure for them and for Kate and me as well. Yes, we sang along with them.

I am glad we don’t have to depend on someone to come in twice a month. We play music all the time. It is a rare moment when music is not playing. We never tire of it. In fact, Kate’s senses seem to be more alive now than ever as her rational abilities fade away. I witnessed a good example of that yesterday afternoon. First, a digression.

Even during the winter when the trees were bare, Kate enjoyed looking at the dense growth of trees in the neighbor’s property behind our house. During spring, she took pleasure in the growth of new leaves. More recently, I put out a variety of potted plants on our patio and two pots of violet colored petunias inside our family room. Every time she walks through the room she stops and looks at all of them. Each time is like the first time she has seen them. She loves to bring my attention to several that are her favorites.

When the sitter left yesterday afternoon, Kate was lying on the sofa facing the sliding glass doors to our patio and the neighbor’s property. Generally, she has wanted to leave the house as soon as the sitter leaves, but she was enjoying looking at the trees. I put on an album by Alfie Boe. It began with “Bring Him Home.” That has always been a favorite of hers. That didn’t stop her enjoyment of the beauty outside. It just added an extra measure of pleasure for her. When the album was over, I played two different renditions of “Send in the Clowns,” another longtime favorite. Thirty minutes passed before I suggested we look at one of her family photo books. She said, “I’d like that, but let’s do that later.” She just wanted to enjoy the beauty of nature and music. I kept looking over to see if she might be falling asleep. What I saw were beautiful expressions of pleasure. Often she was mouthing the words to the songs. Occasionally, she would point out something she wanted me to see.

After dinner last night, I gave her the “Big Sister” album. She spent about an hour looking at it. Even though she doesn’t recognize everyone, she enjoys looking through it and other albums.

I have been increasingly concerned about the difficulty she has working puzzles on her iPad. That has been so important for her for such a long time, but maybe her intuitive abilities will open other doors for pleasure in the days ahead. I hope so.

A Very Good Day

In many ways, yesterday was just an ordinary day. I got Kate up in time for the sitter who arrived at noon. I went to my Rotary meeting, to the Y, and the grocery store before getting back home to relieve the Cindy. Kate and I relaxed in the family room for an hour and then went to dinner and returned home. We received a phone call from our daughter and ended the day. So why do I think it was “a very good day?” Let me tell you.

We were off to a good start when I went to wake Kate shortly after 11:00. She was already awake and gave me a smile that said, “Everything is all right. I’m just enjoying resting.” I sat down on the bed and we talked a few minutes before telling her it was time to get up. She wasn’t eager, but when I explained that I was going to Rotary and Cindy would take her to lunch, she agreed to get up. She was in a good mood and, other than needing me to guide her to the bathroom, she gave no sign of her normal early morning confusion.

She dressed slowly, but promptly, and was ready before Cindy arrived. I was leading her to the kitchen for her morning meds when she wanted to stop and admire the flowers in our family room and the ones on the patio. I enjoy watching her experience such joy. We started toward the kitchen, she stopped and said hello to the ceramic cat that has been a “pet” for quite a few years. He is now resting in front of a cabinet beside the fireplace as we walk to the kitchen. Then she noticed, as she almost always does, pictures of her father, our son, and me when I was about twelve. She loves looking at them, and her pleasure increases when I tell her “who we are.”

When Cindy arrived, Kate gave her a hug and showed no signs of concern about my leaving. They were sitting in the family room when I got back. I was glad that it did not appear that Kate had taken a nap as she often does. Even though she often naps after lunch, I sometimes feel that she uses that as a way to escape the sitter. This time they were talking. I also saw that she had the three-ring binder memory book on the table next to her. She had been looking at it.

One of the highlights of the day came after Cindy left. Most of the time, Kate is ready for us to leave the house as soon as I get home. Recently, that has been changing. Yesterday Kate gave me no indication that she was ready to go out. I turned on some music that I know she likes and sat down with my laptop to check my email. After a few minutes, I looked over at her. She had closed her eyes. Each hand was flat against the other as if in prayer. I have observed this on several other occasions. She continued to enjoy the music for about forty-five minutes. She periodically opened her eyes. She also released her hands off and on depending on the particular song that was playing. Her facial expressions and her hands worked in harmony with specific segments of the songs. Sometimes she was smiling. Other times, she was teary. She was enjoying herself so much that we went to dinner thirty minutes later than usual.

Another highlight occurred after we returned home from dinner. We received a phone call from our daughter who had just returned from a trip to England and France with her seventeen-year-old twin boys. It was their first trip, and she was excited to tell us about it. Kate said only a few words but listened intently to Jesse as she recounted their experiences.

When I reflect on our day, I have to say it was good day. Looking back, I don’t recall a single time she asked my name, or hers, or where we were or anything like that. It was a day when she was not talkative but at ease and seemed to know me and her surroundings. She might not have, but I like to think that she did.

Special Moments

Given Kate’s decline and my comments about sad moments, I felt a need to let you know that we still experience happy moments as well. In fact, they still outweigh the sad ones. We had a several of those yesterday. The first occurred at lunch. When our server greeted us, she reached out to give Kate a hug, something she does when we arrive and leave each Saturday. Kate gave her a warm embrace. Then she looked at me as if to introduce me and said, “This is my friend.” I agreed and said, “She is a good friend, isn’t she?” Kate beamed and said, “Yes, a very good friend.” I know that Kate doesn’t remember our server, at least by name, but she has developed a feeling for her. When she walked away, Kate said, “I like her. She’s so friendly.”

I love everything about moments like this. They are a major reason we eat out. We only get hugs at one other restaurant, but being regulars at so many places provides us with a kind of warmth that is decidedly different than the good service we receive at places we visit only periodically. And that is in addition to the people we encounter who are friends and acquaintances from our other community activities. Food really is quite secondary to the overall experience.

I don’t think I can overemphasize the pleasure Kate derives from her intuitive abilities. The experience at lunch is just one example. We experienced another special moment when we got home. As usual, she immediately looked at the flowers on our patio from the family room. She admired them a few minutes. Then she said she wanted to rest a while. She mentioned going to the bedroom, but I suggested she might want to lie down on the sofa in the family room where I would work on my laptop. She liked the idea and took a seat. As she did, she noticed one of her family photo books, this one focusing on her father’s family.

We have done so much of this that I know she can’t remember the people in the pictures and has difficulty reading the accompanying text. I asked if she would like me to go through it with her. She said yes, and I sat down beside her. We spent about thirty minutes going through about half the book. She was thoroughly enjoying herself, but she again said she was tired and wanted to finish later. Like a little child, she asked if she could lie down for a while. Then she asked if she could take her shoes off.

I sat down in a chair across from her. She was lying facing the sliding glass doors leading to the patio and backyard. She didn’t close her eyes. She looked at the dense growth of trees on our neighbor’s property. From her vantage point, she can look at them from the top of the wall on our property to the tops of the trees that are visible through the room’s skylights. She never seems to tire of admiring them. She didn’t go to sleep or even close her eyes for at least forty-five minutes. During that time, she called my attention to things she noticed like the different shades of greens, the height of the two tallest trees, and shimmering of the leaves as the wind picked up.

Last night when I got in bed, she was still awake . That’s when we had a conversation that was another happy moment of the day. We talked about the day and how nice it had been. Then I said something about our daughter. She said, “Our daughter?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “How did that happen?” I responded by telling her about our dating, falling in love, and getting married. That led her to say that we had a happy marriage. She said, “We just clicked.” She mentioned our having shared values and said, “You know, we laugh a lot. I think that helps.” We talked another ten minutes or so when she closed the conversation by saying, “and it (our marriage) is going to last. I was ready to believe that my telling the story of how we fell in love and married had jogged her memory. “Now she understands who I am.” That’s when she asked what has become a familiar question. “And what is your name?” Of course, she may have realized we are married, but I suspect she didn’t at that moment. At best, her memory lasts only seconds. It’s just as possible that she didn’t remember. I am learning, however, to take pleasure in the joy she experiences through her intuitive abilities. That seems to work. It creates a lot more happy moments than I might notice otherwise.

“Little Things Mean A Lot”

In 1954, Billboard ranked Kitty Kallen’s “Little Things Mean A Lot” the number 1 song of the year. It apparently meant a lot to a lot of people. That popped into my head as I thought about today’s post. This follows an earlier post this week when I mentioned Kate’s delight in the “beauty” of her leftover sandwich at a restaurant in Asheville. She derives much pleasure from simple things. She’s not alone. I do too.

The other day someone I follow on Twitter mentioned that her father had written her a letter in which he said sometimes little things can carry you through an entire week. I find that to be true. In fact, it’s even better than that with Kate. During any given week, we encounter a number of touching moments that help me through the week. Let me tell you about three of them that occurred in the past 48 hours.

Thursday night after returning from opera night at Casa Bella, I turned on a YouTube video of selected segments from Andre Rieu concerts. Kate got in bed, and I went to take a shower. After showering, I noticed that Kate’s arms were uplifted, and she was holding her hands together as if she were praying. I think, in a way, she was. She was enraptured by the music. That was the second time I have observed this. The first was during the song “Bring Him Home” on a DVD video of Les Miserables. In both instances, her eyes were closed, and she was entranced throughout the song. I was touched to see her loving the music so deeply.

Last night, I tucked her bed before and told her I loved her. She looked surprised and said, “You do?” I knew immediately that this was one of those moments when she didn’t recall that we are married and said, “Yes.” She said, “I’m glad. I was hoping you did.” I said, “I love you.” She said, “Me too.” It was such a little thing; however, at this stage of her Alzheimer’s, it means a lot to me. She may not always know my name or that I am her husband, but she still has the same feelings.

The third moment actually occurred over a three-hour period between 1:00 and 4:00 this morning. I got up at 1:05 to go to the bathroom. When I got back in bed, she moved close to me and put her arm over my chest. She moved a bit during the next three hours but not much. I think she was pretty much asleep during the entire time. She chuckled a few times and said a few words that I didn’t understand. I think she was dreaming. What struck me was how naturally she held me. I took it as an expression of love. Once again, she is losing her memory of my name and her own and the fact that we are married, but she retains her feelings. Right now that is worth its weight in gold.

Bedtime Conversation

I am glad to report that the rest of our day yesterday went well. It was a good day. Once again, I want to underscore that did not mean any improvement in Kate’s memory or her confusion. In fact, the past few days she seems to be worse. I say it was good because she was happy and that we enjoyed ourselves.

Throughout the day she couldn’t remember my name and our relationship. Neither could she remember her own name. The difference from the morning was her not showing any signs of being frightened. When she wanted to know my name or hers, she asked as naturally as one might say, “Would you pass the butter, please?” The day ended in a conversation that was just that natural.

Kate got in bed about thirty minutes before me. The past few months I’ve been playing a variety of soft music while we go to sleep. Most of the time I play instrumental music. Last night I put on an old Nat King Cole album. When I got in bed, she said, “I like that. Who’s singing?” I told her. She asked, “What do you want me to do in the morning?” I said, “Well, we’re having lunch with a couple we know from Casa Bella’s music nights. We’re supposed to meet them at noon. I’ll probably get you up around 10:00 so that you will have time to shower and dress.” She said, “Who’s that singing?” I told her again. She said, “Tell me exactly what we’re going to do tomorrow.” This time I repeated what I had said before but added that we might drop by to see a friend who just returned home from the hospital and rehab and then come back to the house until time for dinner. She said, “Who’s singing?” I told her again. She said, “Tell me what we’re going to do tomorrow. Again, I repeated myself. She said, “Who’s that singing?” I said, “Nat King Cole. That’s one of our oldest albums (now streaming from Amazon rather than the original LP), and we’ve been together a long time.” She said, “How long?” I said, “Fifty-six years, and I still love you.” She said, “I love you too.” I said, “We have a lot to be grateful for.” She said, “Like what?” I said, “Well, we have two children that we’re very proud of.” She said, “We have children? Are we married?” I said, “Yes, we’re married and have two children.” She said, “What’s your name?” I told her. Then she asked her name.

We went through two or three more rounds of these questions and answers before Kate said, “I’m going to sleep now.” I told her I was going to do the same. It wasn’t long before we were both asleep. I know I was.