Still Many Good Times

Quite often I say that things are going well but mention all the many things that are the signs of Alzheimer’s that Kate experiences. Today I want to do something that I should do more of – report on a really upbeat moment. This morning I came home directly from the Y instead of dropping by my office. I did so because I wanted to make sure that Kate was cleaning up the guest room for Kevin who arrives at 5:00 pm this afternoon. As it turned out, she was working on her room and getting ready to work on the guest room where he will stay. I walked over to her, smiled, gave her a hug and said, “You’re getting things cleaned up for your little boy.” She said, “And for me as well.” It was just as normal a moment as we can have.

At 11:35, she came into the kitchen where I was working. She had dressed and looked ready for lunch. She asked what time it was. When I told her she said, “No wonder I’m so hungry.” We then went over to Applebee’s for lunch. We asked for our favorite server and sat at one of her tables. We enjoyed a brief conversation with her off and on throughout our time there. The meals were good. After we finished eating and paying, we just sat there another 15 minutes or so chatting, something we don’t do as much of nowadays. Just like the moment we shared in her room as she was cleaning, this was a simple but pleasurable moment in our day. It is these experiences that help both of us.

This follows Broadway night at Casa Bella last night with two other couples we have known from church. It appeared to be a good evening for all – at least it was for Kate and me. She really enjoyed herself. I was happy about that because we were with some big talkers, and Kate was a bit overshadowed. The two singers were people we have seen in several different productions at one of our local theaters. I doubt that Kate remembered that, but it added a nice touch to the evening. The entertainment and the company were everything we could have wanted. I have already requested reservations for next month.

These are just some of the experiences that make me feel very grateful even though we are facing rougher days ahead.

Sunday Morning In Lucerne

Our trip continues to go well. Yesterday we stayed in town. I had intended for us to take a walking tour of the Old Town, but we arrived a little too late. I didn’t worry about this as we have today and tomorrow to catch it. In addition, I am trying not to have any one thing that is a must. This outlook seems to be working.

We do continue to have little surprises. Yesterday morning at breakfast, Kate went back to the buffet table for something. When she returned, she walked directly to a table where a man was sitting. She started to put her plate down on the table in the seat where his wife had been sitting. He saw her and looked puzzled. His wife was also returning from the buffet table and was immediately behind Kate. She, too, looked puzzled. It was then that Kate looked at him and realized that she was at the wrong table. She said, “You’re not my husband.” The three of them had a brief conversation before she headed to the table where I was sitting.

Before heading out to catch the walking tour, I realized that we did not have Kate’s sweater and figured that we had left it at the Italian restaurant the previous night. I assumed that they would not yet be opened and planned to drop by later to pick it up. Since we missed the tour, we went to the Samuel Rosengart Museum. It contains his and his daughter’s private collection of Picasso, Klee, and a number of other well-known artists of the same period (Monet, Pizarro, Chagall, Renoir and more). This was a great experience. Kate loved it. As we were checking out of the museum, the receptionist asked for the badges we had worn showing that we had paid. Kate didn’t have hers. Then I realized she didn’t have her jacket. I remembered that we had sat down to watch a video about the museum and that she must have left it on a chair. We went back upstairs and found it.

From there we went by Valentino’s and picked up her sweater. Then to a nice lunch along the water front where we ate outside. We walked around a little while and visited a Catholic cathedral near our hotel and then came back to the room for almost 2 hours. Then we went to dinner near the KKL (the building that houses their concert hall and art museum) where we attended a concert by Jonas Kaufmann, a rising star in the opera world. There we had a couple of other mishaps.

After taking our seats about 15 minutes before the performance, Kate dropped a bag of mixed nuts on the floor. A bunch of nuts fell to the floor in front of her and slid under the feet of the woman in front of Kate and the seat in front of her. There was nothing to do but let them be until intermission when the people had gone to the lobby. Then I cleaned them up.

While the performance was going on, Kate got very upset with me. I am not sure what started it. What I remember is that after each of the first pieces of music, she commented on how good the orchestra was as well as the singer. I thought I acknowledged her enthusiasm, but a little while later when I made my own comment about the performance, she said something about my trying to keep her quiet during the performance. I must not have given a sufficient agreement when she expressed her enthusiasm. I do know that I am not one to talk during a performance like this and that I try not to encourage her to talk much either. By the time the concert was over, she had forgotten all about it though she did ask if I was mad at her for dropping the nuts. I assured her that I wasn’t.

After the performance, we slipped out while most of the crowd was still applauding. Once again Kate dropped the bag of nuts, this time spilling a much larger quantity. At this point there was nothing to do but move on.

Travel Issues

Yesterday Kate and I drove to Nashville to attend a performance of Tirandot at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. As always, I was concerned that Kate would not remember to bring things she likes or needs. Such was the case. As she was packing in a rush, she couldn’t find the shoes she wanted to wear last night. I found a pair of black boots that she said would work. It turned out, however, that they are too tight; so walking was a problem. Fortunately, we didn’t have far to go, just across the street.

After the opera, she discovered she hadn’t brought anything to sleep in. She asked if I had something. I gave her the dress shirt I had worn to the opera. Interestingly, she brought several pair of hose. She wore 3 pair to the opera to protect her from the cold. We were outside for only a short time; so she was a little warmer than she likes.

We opted for the breakfast buffet this morning. This offered another example of the difficulty she has getting her eyes to focus on the various items she is looking for. For example, she stood in front of the bowls beside an assortment of fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and apricots) as well as yogurt. She noticed the fruit and then walked down the buffet looking for a bowl even though they had been right in front of her. She didn’t notice the bowls, but she said she remembered having been here before even though this was our first time at this hotel. Another case of Deja Vu.

Last night at the opera, she asked me to take her gloves because she couldn’t get them in the pocket of her jacket. Now that I think of it, I must have dropped them below my seat because I don’t see them. It is obvious that I don’t do a great job of keeping up with her things. I am finding it challenging to keep up with her things as well as my own.

As soon as we came back to the room after breakfast, she got right in the bed with the covers over her. Over the past year or two this has become a pattern. In a few minutes I will get her up to meet an old TCU friend for lunch.

On Stage

Yesterday afternoon we went to a performance of Five Guys Names Moe at a small local theater. We were seated on the front row and the entire audience numbered about 20. During the final number in the first act, the actors invited members of the audience including Kate to join them in a conga line and they danced around the room. She joined in with little hesitation and seemed to enjoy it. During the first part of the second act, a member of the cast grabbed her hand and walked her up to the stage. Other cast members brought two other women up as well. Then the three were asked to take a seat in chairs set up on the front center of the stage. Kate sat in the middle. A cast member asked each one two questions: “What is your name?” and “Are you here with your husband or a date?” Kate spoke right up and in a loud (not too loud) voice said, “”Kate.” To the next question she said, “”My husband of 52 years.” We have actually been married 51 years, but I know where she got 52. We were in a discussion several weeks ago. I had said we had been celebrated our 51st anniversary in May and were now in our 52nd year. In an email earlier today, I mentioned this account to my friends, Tom and Carl. They wondered whether she had been more at ease because of the small audience. I told them I didn’t think so but that I do think she is a little less inhibited now which I believe is a function of her Alzheimer’s.

She surprises me sometimes.

All of the entries I give point to the many things that are symptoms of Kate’s Alzheimer’s. This is unfair in painting the whole picture. In many ways she is herself. Once in a while she really surprises me. That happened this morning when I saw her rinsing out a yogurt container. This is something about which she has been sloppy. It’s not that she doesn’t do it; it is that she does it but leaves traces of yogurt which concern me because we attract insects inside and have the potential for doing the same in the recycling bin outside in the garage. I was made especially sensitive about that recently when I saw a swarm of gnat-like insects around the recycling. We are also getting gnats in the kitchen.

I don’t know that I paid special attention to see that she had sufficiently rinsed the yogurt container, but when she had finished, she said, “I saw you watching me to see if I rinsed the yogurt container.” I have never said the first word to her about my doing this, but I have watched in the past, and I also come behind her and re-rinse the containers she has already rinsed. She has obviously picked up on this.

We are enjoying an unusual Sunday morning at home today. She told me last night that she was thinking of not going to church today. She re-confirmed that this morning. I decided to follow suit as there was no regular Sunday school this morning.

We have been active the past few days. Friday night we went to a play at the Bijou. They performed Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks. It was a wild comedy. It was not exactly our kind of thing, but we do share a love for theater. We will continue to attend as many theater performances as we can. I am optimistic that we will have a couple of more years to enjoy them.

Yesterday afternoon we went to lunch at a small café on Millwood and then drove to The Flick planning to see Belle. It turns out they were sold out for the 2:30 movie; so we bought tickets for the 5:00 show. We came back home in the interim where I solved a syncing problem involving my iPad and computer. We went back to the show and enjoyed it. It was the best movie we have seen in quite a while. Since we were so close to Casa Bella, we went there for dinner following the movie.

I hope our activity is something that would be encouraging to anyone else in our situation. We have had almost 3 ½ good years since Kate’s diagnosis, and we continue to enjoy life. We’re going to keep it up as long as we can.

From Chautauqua

Yesterday we arrived at Chautauqua (Chautauqua) after two nights in Niagara-on-the-Lake. For several years we have gone there before going to Chautauqua. From April through October they have the Shaw Festival that we both enjoy. They have a theater company that performs as many as 8-10 plays either by George Bernard Shaw or ones that are similar to his. We packed in a lot, seeing four plays in two days. They were all terrific. We love live theater, it was another of the very special times we continue to have.

I continue to notice ways in which I need to take more responsibility. Kate came without any comfortable shoes and left some shoes, a jacket, a pair of slacks, and a few other things At our B&B. I notice a conflict between my wanting to take more responsibility and Kate’s wanting to feel independent. There are some things she appreciates – my taking care of, everything financial, some communications with friends, making arrangements for dinner and entertainment. There are also times she feels insulted by my efforts to help. Yesterday I showed her where the bookstore is and told her I would meet her there. She gave me a disgusted look and said she knew where the bookstore was. We have had a number of such things on the trip.

On the positive side, I still believe that we are fortunate that for everyday interaction with people that her long-term memory is still more than adequate for her to enjoy herself with others (most of the time) and to prevent their noticing that she has a memory problem. It is the short-term things that are most difficult for her. For example, we had a delightful conversation with two couples at our B&B in Niagara-on-the-Lake. A short time (perhaps, 2-3 hours) later she couldn’t remember them when I mentioned them to her. I explained, and she said she remembered. I know this is frustrating, even distressing, for her. She says little, but it shows in her face.

I have often been critical of those who say that the person with AD does not know what is happening. I have a different perspective on this issue. My experience with Kate has reinforced this opinion. Clearly Kate knows she has AD, and she can see signs of it everywhere. On the other hand, I see her transitioning to a rather innocent, even child-like, stage that I don’t think she recognizes. One indication is that she very frequently remarks how intelligent people are. It often seems like she says this about most people she encounters. Another is that she is forever wanting to arrange to get together with people that we have not gotten together with before. She will even suggest inviting them to our house when I know that she will not remember to follow up on that desire nor will she be able to organize things for the event should I extend the invitation for her.