The Perfect Gift

Fifty-eight years ago today, Kate and I tied the knot. We vowed “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, . . . to love and to cherish till death do us part.” Like most couples, I don’t think we fully appreciated what that meant. We do now and recognize that our lives have been richer because we found each other.

It’s a day to celebrate although I don’t know what lies ahead. It’s been more than five years since she remembered our anniversary, but I remember, and we celebrate each one. We’ve never put much effort into giving gifts to each other. Our emphasis has been on spending time together. For many years, we celebrated with a trip to Charleston, South Carolina, during their annual Spoleto Festival. Our grandest celebration was for our fiftieth, a week with our children and grandchildren in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming.

During the past few years, we’ve gone out to eat. This year we are in our new home, and she is in bed about twenty hours of the day. Since our move, I’ve been ordering a carry-out meal from the dining room each night. That’s what I’ll do this evening.

I know that some of you may think this is sad. In some ways you are right, but, overall, we have much to celebrate. We still enjoy being together, and I plan to reflect on many of our memories to remind Kate of them. While I said we haven’t generally exchanged gifts, I made one for her this year, a 95-page photo book that includes photos from the “Happy Moments” we have shared.

And what will be Kate’s gift to me? You might say, “Nothing,” but that wouldn’t be true. It will be the same one she gives to me almost every day, her own expression of love. That is something she can’t plan. That’s impossible with Alzheimer’s, and there’s no way I can be assured that she will respond that way today. That won’t matter because yesterday she gave me the very best gift of all. She was happy all day long. It was her best day since before Thanksgiving six months ago when she came home from the hospital after a bout with COVID.

She usually sleeps until noon or close to it, but she was awake before 8:00 and very cheerful. After her morning meds, I gave her a serving of mandarin oranges, something she has always liked. Expecting that she would go back to sleep, I turned on some soothing music. She was still awake at 10:15. Normally, her first meal of the day would be served by the caregiver after she arrives at noon. I decided she needed something to eat and fixed her some scrambled eggs.

After that, I sat up in bed with her, and we looked through her “Big Sister” album, a photo book that her brother Ken made for her three years ago. She can’t follow the photos, but she does respond to my commentary. It was a special moment for us because she hasn’t responded well to any of her photo books in months. We were both happy.

When the caregiver arrived, I left for lunch at Andriana’s, our regular Sunday lunch place for several years. I’ve been going by myself during the past six months. It’s a treat that I look forward to each week.

Kate was in her recliner when I got home. The caregiver told me that she had been easy to handle changing her, getting her dressed, and out of bed. She was still cheerful, but relaxed, and enjoying the music I put on before going. It was a great afternoon to be outside. The temperature was in the low-70s, and we went out on the balcony where we remained until time for an early dinner. Getting her out of the recliner and into her wheelchair is not something Kate likes, but she handled it as though it was something she enjoyed.

I know the dining room didn’t plan it for our anniversary, but they had 8-ounce filets for dinner. We enjoyed every bite. When it was time to get ready for bed, she didn’t protest when we lifted her out of her wheelchair and into the bed. Even more surprisingly, she didn’t protest when we got her into her night clothes.

Our day ended on a high note as well. We watched a couple of YouTube videos of piano concertos before I turned on an old CBS program about the filming of The Sound of Music. It is hard for her to follow the visuals, but I gave my own commentary that included references to places we had visited in Salzburg ten years ago.

It was a day in which we simply enjoyed being together. To me that was a perfect gift.

A Happy Easter

I should preface this post by saying that I don’t want my readers to think our lives are all smooth sailing. They are not. We experience many of the same or similar challenges that are common among people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. I wish Kate had never received her diagnosis, but she did. From the beginning we wanted to make the most of a bad situation, and we have.

During the past ten years, our lives have become smaller in that we can’t do as many things as we used to. The surprising thing to me is that we continue to enjoy life and each other, and some moments, even days, are very special. I reported on one of those in my previous post. Since then, except for a few moments, we’ve had a series of good days. That was capped off by a very nice Easter.

Kate is usually asleep when her caregivers arrive at 11:00. Yesterday, she would have been late for a sunrise service, but she was awake before 9:00. Like other mornings recently, she smiled when I went into the room. In fact, that has become the norm sometime in the past few months. She displayed no sign of confusion or fright. I’m not sure she knew my name, but it was clear that she recognized me. Except for my knowing she is confined to bed without our help, she seemed as normal as she was before Alzheimer’s entered our lives.

Because she was up early, I was able to take care of a few things that we usually do after the caregiver arrives. That included getting her meds, yogurt, and juice. After that she wanted to rest a while. Once the caregiver was here, I cooked her breakfast. We gave her a little break and then changed her and got her out of bed and into her wheelchair.

Kate and her caregiver watched an Andre Rieu concert on YouTube while I went to lunch at Andriana’s, something I have been doing almost every Sunday for the past few months. It’s different going without Kate, but I enjoy the whole experience. I always get one of two of my favorite salads with blackened salmon. We’ve eaten there on Sundays for years. We know the servers and they know us. In addition to our regular server who is very attentive, several others always stop by the table to say hello and check on Kate. Yesterday, one of them was especially excited to tell me that she is in her thirteenth week of her first pregnancy, and she’s going to have a boy. The manager brought my salad, and we chatted briefly. Since I’ve been going alone, I’ve also ordered a meal that Kate and I can split for dinner.

Yesterday was as near perfect a day as it gets. The temperature was in the low-to-mid-70s, and the dogwoods and azaleas in our back yard are in full bloom. When I got home, we took Kate outside on the patio.

Even in the mid-70s, it can get hot when seated in direct sunlight, but we sat in a shady spot that was just right. The first couple of times we took Kate outside, the caregiver and I clearly had a good time. We think Kate did as well, but she was not very demonstrative. The last two times she has enjoyed the change in scenery, and yesterday, she was enthusiastic. She loved looking at the new growth of leaves on the trees as well as colorful flowers. It was a pleasant experience for the three of us.

We went inside for dinner ninety minutes later. The dinner itself was also good. Kate always enjoys her food, and this time was no exception. Then we took her back to the bedroom and got her ready for bed. Kate was tired and rested while I listened to Tchaikovsky’s fourth and sixth symphonies on YouTube. Kate wasn’t talkative, but we both enjoyed the music and being together. It was a nice end to a very Happy Easter.

Our Own Christmas Story

Very early in the pandemic, I learned the following expression concerning our plight. “We may be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat.” That struck a chord with me. I believe it holds for just about every obstacle we encounter in life. I definitely believe it applies to people’s experience with Alzheimer’s. Our situations are very diverse. Some people’s experience is like being in a “leaky canoe” while others may be like traveling on an “ocean liner. As regular readers know, Kate and I have been fortunate to face her Alzheimer’s as if we were in a battleship safe from the harsh storms that sink smaller boats.

With that in mind, you might ask what this year’s Christmas was like for us. Judging by the number of Christmas cards, phone calls as well as the flowers and goodies we received, quite a few people may have thought the most fitting piece of Christmas music for us would be “In the Bleak Midwinter.” (One of my all-time favorites, by the way.) Had I thought about it, I might have felt the same way. Kate is in the last stage of Alzheimer’s and bedridden for four weeks related to her recent experience with COVID. Not only that, but we were going to celebrate the day alone except for Kate’s caregiver. As it turned out, we had a joy-filled day.

As usual, I was up early, had breakfast and took a 60-minute walk. I had a relaxing morning before going to wake Kate about 11:15. Her eyes were open when I got to her bedside, and she greeted me with a big smile, just the kind of beginning I like. I took care of her morning meds. Then I served her breakfast in bed. Of course, that isn’t exactly special when you have been in bed for a month as she has, but she still loves her food. Now that I am crushing her pills, even that is a pleasant event for her. I always put it in yogurt or apple sauce. I don’t even tell her she is taking medicine. I just say, “I’ve got a treat for you.”

When the caregiver arrived, it was time to change her. Neither Kate nor the caregivers and I like to face this. She is no longer as combative as she was the first couple of weeks, but it is still something she dislikes and resists. Yesterday was also a day to change the sheet as well, so we did it all at the same time. That is something that is especially disturbing for Kate, but it went relatively smoothly.

The afternoon went very well. Kate was quite talkative even though that involved a lot of delusions. I sat up in bed with her almost the entire time while we watched several Christmas musical programs on YouTube. During one of them, I pointed out that all the musicians in the orchestra were wearing Santa caps. Kate didn’t know what I was talking about, so I put on my own that I wear each year when ringing the Salvation Army bells.

After the caregiver left, we had our Christmas dinner. The meal itself was quite good. I arranged for it through a caterer we have used since near the beginning of the pandemic, usually on a Friday night. Her menu for Christmas was a generous portion of beef tenderloin accompanied by sweet potatoes gratin, twice-baked potato, and green beans. The dessert was an assortment of goodies including fudge, baklava, chocolate mint brownies, and Christmas cookies. We indulged ourselves but still have some leftovers for another meal tonight.

We had a good meal, and both of us enjoyed every bite. The setting itself was nothing to write home about. Kate, of course, was in bed. I stood by the bed and fed her while eating my dinner between her bites. In some ways, one might compare the glamour of the situation to the Parker family’s Chinese dinner in A Christmas Story. The big difference was that Kate and I were having a good time.

After dinner, we watched a portion of It’s a Wonderful Life. Kate was engaged as I tried to explain what was going on; however, I decided to move on to something else and scrolled through the TV schedule. I saw that The Wizard of Oz had just started and turned to that. As I had done with the previous movie, I explained what was happening throughout. She was so engaged that she didn’t want to stop when I first said it was time for us to go to bed. We ended up watching over half of it before calling it a night.

What could have been a depressing way to spend our Christmas Day turned out to be one I will remember fondly. We were together and very happy.

Still Having Good Times

I hope I’ve made it clear that Kate and I face more issues to deal with than at any other time since her diagnosis. I am also happy to say what I have said before. We still enjoy life and each other. This past weekend is an excellent example.

Saturday morning she was slow to get up. That meant we didn’t get to have our regular lunch at Andriana’s. Ordinarily, that would not have been a problem. We would simply have had a late lunch; however, this time I wanted to attend a virtual memorial service for a church friend who died unexpectedly. It started at 2:00, and I knew we would be unable to get home in time.

As it turned out, Kate hadn’t quite finished her lunch when it started. I had expected to have finished eating and that she would rest while I watched the service. Instead we watched it together at the kitchen table. She had no idea who our friend was, nor was she able to follow everything that was said. That didn’t keep her from finding the service to be meaningful. She was especially moved by the music and prayers. Periodically, she reached her hand out to me. When she does this, I put one hand on top of hers. She puts her other hand on mine, and I top it off with my other hand.

I have often attended services for other church friends but haven’t been able to do so for a while because they have always conflicted with my responsibilities for Kate. Before that, I had been touched by memorial services because they made me think of a time when we would have one for her. Given that, it isn’t surprising that I found both the service and Kate’s response equally touching. It was a special time for the two of us.

Thirty minutes later, we had a Zoom call with our son Kevin. That, too, was special. Most of his calls are on the phone, and often Kate has been resting or in bed for the night. The result is that she isn’t up for a conversation. To be sure, a Zoom call is a little confusing for her. Her vision problem is part of the reason. She has a hard time seeing anyone on a Zoom call. In addition, is the fact that she can’t quite comprehend that she could be seeing someone on a call. It took a while at the beginning of the call to get her to look at the computer screen and see Kevin. Even after that, she drifted away from the screen.

The good thing is that we were able to talk comfortably. Some of the time, she and I talked to each other. I felt that was a good thing in that Kevin was able to catch a glimpse of the way we relate to each other. It was very much like it would have been if he were not on the line. It was an hour of pleasure for the two of us and, hopefully, for Kevin as well.

The rest of the afternoon and evening went well, and we have added something new to our evenings. I ‘ve been reading a bedtime story just before turning out the lights. I started with The Velveteen Rabbit, but that is a little long. I learned about Love You Forever from a Twitter friend. His wife is in memory care now and still likes it. It is much shorter, and I found that Kate likes it as well. It is short enough that I added I’ve Loved You Since Forever by Hoda Kotb who wrote it for her adopted daughter. Together the two books work out just right for a bedtime story. I plan to add a few more. It’s a nice way to end the day.

Sunday was also a good day. Kate was ready to get up at 8:30. That gave me enough time to get her breakfast, spend a little quality time with her, and let her rest before lunch. The highlight came while we were still at the kitchen table after breakfast. I’ve mentioned before that she often cleans up her plate, but I don’t believe I have said much more than that. She uses her index finger to pick up the final specks of food and put them in her mouth. There are always some things she doesn’t like. She puts those on the table or her placemat.

She did something different yesterday. She likes to arrange things and often changes the arrangement of items on her bedside table and dresser. Not too long ago I reported on her food art. That was when she spent time placing her napkin, utensils, glass, and food in various places on her plate and placement. Yesterday, she did something similar.

I made cheese toast for her using Dave’s “PowerSeed” bread. As the name suggests, it is loaded with seeds, and a lot inevitably fall on the plate or placemat. I noticed her carefully studying her plate. She was arranging the fallen seeds on her plate along with her fork and one remaining bite of cheese toast. I complimented her on her artistic eye as she continued to arrange and re-arrange. She enjoys things like this, and I enjoy seeing her entertain herself. This and other simple pleasures provide us with plenty of good times.

We Still Have Very Special Moments.

These days I write more about the challenges that Kate and I have than at any other time over the past 9 ½ years. For that reason, I feel the need to emphasize that we continue to have joyful moments and even joyful days. One of those occurred yesterday. The day was highlighted by one of the best tours we have had of the main living areas of our house.

(For those of you who may be new to this site, Kate rarely recognizes the house as ours and never remembers her way around the house or anything -and I mean anything – in the various rooms. Periodically, I give her a tour of the family room, kitchen, living room and dining room. I do so with a patter that is somewhat like that of a tour guide taking note of things that were special purchases of ours as well as items from her parents’ home.)

I woke Kate around 11:00. Unlike the past two mornings, I was able to get her up and dressed quite easily. She was also cheerful though confused the way she usually is. We brought in a takeout lunch from a sandwich shop nearby. After eating, she wanted to rest and lay down on the sofa in our family room. An hour or so later, she started to sit up. I walked over to her. She said she wanted to walk “around.” I asked if she would like me to show her around.

She accepted my offer and we began with a few items on a shelves close to where she had been resting. There are four pie plates that we bought at a pottery in North Carolina when we lived there early in our marriage. I told her about our buying them and her using them for years afterward. They remain as a reminder of those days. She gave special attention to another item that is a salt-glazed pitcher that her father had bought as a gift for his mother. On the bottom Kate’ mother had pasted a typed note telling the story and her desire that it go to Kate and then to our daughter, Jesse. I shown her the vase and read the note quite a few times, but she was especially moved this time.

We went into the living room where I showed three chairs and a sofa that had belonged to her parents. She took great interest in everything, especially a collection of sixteen porcelain figures, each of which had been a gift from her father to her mother. Then I picked up a vase that had another note from her mother that said she had it as a gift from her father and wanted Kate to have it. She also delighted in a portrait of her mother when she was about fifteen.

I pointed out the chandelier in our dining room. It was also from her parents home. I told her there were two things I thought about when I looked at it. One is thinking about her parents shopping for just the right chandelier for the house they were building, I commented on how excited they must have been as they picked out everything for their new home. That was the one in which Kate spent most of her life from the time she was eight until we married. The second thing is that her mother was an outstanding cook and hostess. She entertained many family and friends over the years. I mentioned the names of all her aunts and uncles and some of their friends and told her I could envision their sitting around the dining room table under the light of that chandelier. At this point, I don’t think she can even recall those times when I tell her, but it gives her a good feeling.

She was tired before we reached the kitchen, and I took her to her recliner. There is a small table next to it and on the other side of the table is another chair, the one in which I usually sit. I took a seat there. That put me less than four feet away from her, but she said, “Can’t you sit by me?” I got another chair and put it right up against hers and took a seat. She was happy, and so was I.

In no time, she was asleep. She rested until time for dinner. After dinner, I had no trouble getting her ready for bed. She had been in a wonderful mood all day. It was a great day.

Four Good Days in a Row

Except for a few moments, Kate and I have had four good days in a row. She has been in a good humor. Saturday and Sunday she got up late but was not reluctant to get ready for the day. We had late lunches at the same restaurant both days. She rested part of each afternoon. Here are several of our notable experiences.

After getting home from lunch about 3:00 Sunday, she rested until about 5:00 when she began an extended conversation that started with “Who are you?” She wasn’t frightened. She just wanted to know my name. Early in our conversation she said something about her mother that evolved into a long “conversation” about young people and parents. It began by her saying something about things her mother taught her but soon she focused on young people who were beginning to get into trouble. This went on for at least 30 minutes during which time the emphasis shifted to ways she could help children stay out of trouble. It involved working not only with the children themselves but also with their parents. There were several things she wanted us to do together.

The only rough edge of the day came around bedtime. Everything was going well until she called me to her bedside and wanted my help but wouldn’t tell me what she wanted. She started running her fingers through her hair and said, “Think.” I said, “You want me to run my fingers through your hair.” She frowned. I told her I was going to take my shower and would return. Very sternly, She said, “You will come back.” It is not common for her to be as irritated with me as she was; however, it is common for her to believe I know what she wants without telling me. I think this arises from delusions she has had in which I was present.

After my shower, she had apparently forgotten what she wanted, but she asked me what she “should do now.” She said something about the other people. This is another frequent occurrence, especially after she goes to bed. I think that is a direct result of her getting in bed earlier than she used to and not being able to use her iPad. She really doesn’t have anything to do. I told her we were the only people here and that “they” would be here tomorrow. That didn’t help. Then I told her I wanted to read something to her and brought in The Velveteen Rabbit. As in previous readings, she was at ease when I finished and said she was sleepy and was soon asleep.

Monday and Tuesday were similar to the weekend except that Kate was up early both days. That meant I spent a little more time with her, but we had pleasant moments looking at photo books. On both days we took a break and sat close together on the sofa listening to music. It was unusual in that we hardy spoke a word. We simply enjoyed the music and being together.

Monday night after dinner, I put on some YouTube music for her. After 45 minutes, she wanted to know what she should be doing. I was concerned that I might be overdoing my reading of The Velveteen Rabbit, but I tried it anyway. It was close to a repeat of the previous nights. The difference was that after reading to her, I took my shower. Not long after I returned to the bedroom, she wanted to know what she could do. I read The Velveteen Rabbit again. She relaxed and went to sleep.

Yesterday afternoon, we had a special time listening to the music of the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary. We sat on the sofa for almost an hour with my arm around her and her head on my shoulder . She didn’t go to sleep and seemed to be following the music. She frequently tapped her fingers on my leg in time with the music.

It is interesting that although we didn’t talk, she didn’t experience any delusions. That may have been because she was “living in the moment” and not letting her mind wander to other things. That was reinforced by an experience after the music. She was tired and rested on the sofa. Less than an hour later, she got up and was concerned about things she was supposed to be gathering to take someplace. This must have been a result of a dream she had had or simply that her brain was thinking about something she couldn’t convey to me. She wanted my help in finding things. We walked into the kitchen. Then she wanted to go outside. We walked around the back yard until she got too hot.

I suggested that she get back in the house and relax a bit. I took her to her recliner where she rested with her bear in her arms until it was time for dinner.

After being in bed about two hours, she asked what she should do. I told her I was about to come to bed, and I would read a bedtime story for both of us. She liked the idea. I read The Velveteen Rabbit again. I noticed that she seemed to be relaxing as I read. When I finished, she was already asleep.

Simple Pleasures

I’ve learned that predicting what Kate will be like from one day to the next is far from easy. That is not to say she has bad days. If any day has been a bad one, it would be one of the days she has slept/rested until late in the day. I would call those bad because they were so far from her happy times.

I was hoping that Saturday might be another day like Friday. I got my wish. She woke up in a good mood. Everything was fine. Unlike the day before, she was up before 8:00. That meant another time I was able to fix her breakfast and sit with her while I drank my coffee. Despite the fact that it interrupts my normal routine, I enjoy this time with her.

Both days, she was unusually childlike. Saturday morning, she asked permission or approval of just about everything she did. It started with the bathroom. That isn’t unusual. It is normal. A couple of weeks ago as she was about to sit on the toilet, she said, “You’ll have to tell me what to do. This is the first time I have ever done this.” Her seeking permission continued throughout breakfast and the balance of the day. She preceded almost every sip of juice and every bite of her fruit and cheese toast by asking if it was all right to do so. Although I have considered the possibility that she is worried about getting my approval, I think it is more likely that she does this because she is uncertain of what to do. She expresses that in many ways almost every day, but it was especially noticeable that day.

After breakfast, she rested a while and then spent some time looking through one of her photo books before lunch. She was very interested. I was glad to see that because she hasn’t been as enthusiastic recently. Like the day before, it was a day of simple pleasures. We interspersed moments with photo books with periods of rest. It was a very pleasant day.

That changed a bit after her last rest in the afternoon. I got out the “Big Sister” album and began by pointing out the cover photo of her and her brother. I immediately met resistance when she made it clear that she and her brother were not in the picture. She didn’t know who they were, but she was confident they were some other children. I flipped through a number of other pages, and she responded the same way about pictures of her mother and father. She wasn’t interested in going further.

The rest of the day went well. As I got into bed that night, I got a reminder of the difference between her rational and intuitive knowledge of me. She is almost always awake and glad to see me when I get in bed. That was especially so that night. She had a beautiful smile on her face. Then she asked, “What is your name?”

An Unusual Visit with Ellen

Sunday’s visit with our longtime friend Ellen Seacrest was different from those in the past. I’ve always expected that the declines in Ellen’s vascular dementia and Kate’s Alzheimer’s would ultimately change the nature of our visits. To a large extent it has, especially Ellen’s loss of speech. We can only understand a small portion of what she says. Our latest visit, however, was affected by our arriving at a time when the residents had gathered together for a program put on by a dance group from a local church.

Ellen was already seated in the middle of group. One of the staff helped to seat us next to her. We didn’t get to talk much before the program began. The pleasure Kate experienced came from the afternoon activities. The dancing was followed by ice cream that the dancers dished up and delivered to each of us in the audience.

We had only a thirty-minute break to talk with Ellen, but being in the middle of the audience made it challenging to talk with her. Several others around us joined in. In some ways that was helpful since we can’t understand Ellen; however, it also meant that we didn’t get to focus our attention on her the way we have in the past.

We had a big surprise when Ellen told us about someone she wanted us to meet. We couldn’t understand all that she said, but she was enthusiastic about him. In a little while, she rolled away in her wheelchair to greet a man. Then I began to understand. She had found herself a boyfriend. She called to us and told us his name is Mike, but we didn’t get up and go over to them because we were in the middle of the crowd, and the “Music Lady” was about to begin her music program. One of the staff told us that Ellen and Mike had established a relationship, but Mike’s wife hadn’t yet been informed. I know this is not unusual in memory care of skilled nursing facilities, but I hadn’t thought much about Ellen’s establishing such a relationship. I think that is because I felt that most of the residents are significantly further along in their dementia than Ellen. Mike, however, is a new addition. He was among the few not in a wheelchair and did not appear to be much different than Ellen.

We enjoyed the music for about forty-five minutes before we departed. Kate thoroughly enjoyed herself, but I regretted not having more time with Ellen.

Kate was talkative on the way home, especially during the latter part of the trip. She expressed her appreciation to me for caring for her. We talked about things we had in common that had made our relationship strong. For that reason, I was somewhat surprised when we got out of the car for dinner. She said, “I want you to know that I think we will get married sometime.”

Most of the time when she doesn’t know my name or our relationship, I am not very surprised. I realize these moments of recognition come and go all the time. The nature of our conversation and, more specifically, her own comments about our relationship made it seem like it was one of those times when she clearly recognized me as her husband. Of course, it is quite possible her recognition of our relationship was coming and going all the way home. That’s another thing I will never know.

Each time we have these out-of-town trips, I am sensitive for any signs that suggest its time to discontinue them. Nothing happened on this trip that would prevent our going back again. Kate and I had a good dining experience on Saturday night and Sunday for lunch. She also enjoyed the dancing, ice cream, and music even if she didn’t get much of a visit with Ellen. Considering everything, the trip was clearly worth it. We’ll be back.

Reflecting on Our “Good Days”

At this stage of Kate’s Alzheimer’s, I think a lot about the amount of quality time we have left. I don’t mean that I bask in sorrow. I don’t, but I recognize she is in the last stage when we are likely to make more adjustments to our lives than we have done before.

At the moment, however, I am particularly struck by the “Good Days” we have. It not only surprises me; it keeps my spirits up. We had two of those days this weekend. I would like to be able to take credit for them, but I think the fundamental cause was Kate’s mood. She was in very good spirits both Saturday and Sunday.

I might also expect that her good mood was accompanied by a lack of confusion, but that isn’t so. Saturday, she appeared to be rather clear-headed except for wondering where she was. I don’t recall her asking my name. That happens off and on. Sunday morning, she was very confused. She didn’t know my name or hers and couldn’t remember them well enough to repeat them. What made me feel good was that she didn’t seem disturbed at all about not knowing. I am thankful that is typical.

In addition to her good mood, our time together seemed special. Our obligations were minimal. The only official commitment was our dinner reservation Saturday night. She was up earlier than usual both days. We didn’t have to rush. That kind of schedule is the best for her and, thus, for me as well.

We also had a couple of special moments on Saturday. Both occurred after resting in the afternoon. One of those was my reading her a portion of a book about her family’s wedding veil. I’ve read it to her multiple times in recent weeks, but she is always taken with it. She did get tired and wanted to rest before we got well into it.

The second experience was after her second rest. She commented on a few things in the family room that led me to suggest that I show her some of the other rooms. On the way to the back of the house, we passed several photos and stopped to look at them while I told her a little about each one.

The next stop was our guest bedroom. Of course, she had no recollection of it at all and liked what she saw. She got tired of standing and asked if she could sit in a rocking chair. I saw a photo album of our children during their earliest years. We spent quite a while looking at it and never got to another room.

When we finished, it was time to get ready for dinner. This was the only moment in the day that could have become a problem. I had planned a nice Valentine’s dinner at one of the restaurants we usually visit for lunch. I suggested we change clothes and had picked out exactly what I wanted her to wear, but she didn’t want to change. I told her we were going out for a nice dinner, and I was going to put on something a little nicer. She was fine with that but wasn’t going to change. I didn’t push her.

A few minutes later after I had changed, she asked what I wanted her to wear. I told her I would get something and brought her the clothes I had picked out. She had apparently forgotten the conversation we had just had a few minutes before. I helped her change, and we were off.

The dinner itself went as I had hoped. We were welcomed by the manager, our server, and another server who sometimes works as a hostess. They had selected a corner table that was perfect for the occasion. The meal itself was quite good. In addition, a couple we know from our music nights at Casa Bella were seated at the table next to us. I don’t recall our talking about Valentine’s Day at all or anything else especially romantic. We just had a good time together.

Kate was up early Sunday morning. We spent a little less than an hour at Panera before returning home where she rested an hour before leaving for lunch. The restaurant was unusually busy. Consequently, it took longer to be served, but we had a good time. I haven’t said anything in a while about her asking Sinatra’s name when she looks at his mug shot, but that hasn’t let up. She is well-aware that she repeatedly asks and wonders why she can’t seem to remember it, but she doesn’t appear to be very disturbed.

She rested after we returned home with music playing as usual. She awoke about an hour before dinner. I suggested we take a look at a few things around the house. We began with some photos in the family room. As often as she has looked at them, I am amazed and happy that she enjoys them just like it was the first time to see them.

From there we went into the living room and dining room where I showed her a number of things that came from her parents’ home. I enjoy telling her the stories behind each of the items, and she was entranced. It was another special moment.

We are both fortunate that repetition has not diminished the pleasure for either of us. She can’t remember, so it is always new. I like telling her things she can’t remember and seeing her reaction as I tell her. I read a lot about other caregivers’ experiences and know that many of them are bothered by so much repetition. I wish I knew how to help them. My experience is different. Whatever the reason, we have been able to maintain a relationship that has been important in helping both of us adapt to all the changes we have had to make. She feels dependent on me and is normally responsive to the things I want her to do. I want to deserve her trust and work hard to make her life as happy as I can. One of the ways I can do that is to answer her questions and do the things she enjoys so much. I believe each of us loves the other more now than at any other time in our marriage. I think that carries us a long way.

I continue to be mindful of the pleasure she and I can experience through her intuitive abilities. I like to think this is something from which other caregivers could benefit to make their loads lighter. At the same time, I recognize the likelihood that many of them are facing other challenges that we have not faced. Among those would be health and financial constraints. I feel for them and am grateful that at this late stage of Kate’s Alzheimer’s, I see little, if any, loss of pleasure that comes from music, beauty, and associations with family. How long will this last? We will see. I am hopeful that it will continue for some time.

What makes for a good day?

It is far from unusual for me to say that Kate and I have had a good day, but what are the elements that make it so? Number one on the list is Kate’s happiness. My contact with other caregivers suggests that I am not unique. Whether caring for someone or just living with someone who is perfectly healthy, one’s happiness is vitally linked to the feelings of the person you love. Fortunately, Kate is typically happy.

There are a number of other things lead me to say we’ve had a good day, and they all play a role in Kate’s happiness. They include my not having to wake her, getting up early enough to make a trip to Panera and return home for a rest before going to lunch, having a rest after lunch, and having time for other pleasures like looking at photo books, reading, social interaction with friends/family, and events like our music nights at Casa Bella.

That is exactly what happened yesterday. Kate woke up on her own before 8:30. She was in a cheerful mood, and we were at Panera about shortly before 9:30. She was tired from getting up early and ready to go home at 10:00. She rested for an hour. Then I told her I would like to take her to lunch. She thought that sounded like a good idea. We went to one of our favorite lunch places and came back for another rest for about an hour and a half.

When her rest was over, I suggested we look at her “Big Sister Album.” While we were going through it, Ken and Virginia arrived. The flew in from Texas for a long weekend visit. It was our first time to see them in a while. We enjoyed visiting with them and then went to Casa Bella for Broadway Night. It was an excellent program featuring music from the 1940s. We were familiar with every song. To top it off the singers and accompanist were quite good. We don’t normally pack in this much in a single day, but it was all done at a leisurely pace. It was a good day.