It is easy to lose her, but more difficult to find her.

I thought this would never happen again, but yesterday, I lost Kate at Barnes & Noble. On the way back from lunch, I suggested we stop there and get something to drink. Kate wanted to go to the restroom, so I led her there. She was close behind me until I turned right before the hallway where the restrooms are located. I turned around to point to the ladies room door, and she wasn’t there.

Figuring that she hadn’t seen me make the turn, I started looking around the bookstore. I didn’t find her anyplace. I told one of the staff that I had lost her and gave her a description in case she saw her. Then I saw two women walking in the direction of the restrooms and asked if they were going there. They said they were, and I told them about Kate, gave them her name, and described what she was wearing. They came right out and said she was not in there.

The restrooms are in the back part of Barnes & Noble near the exit to the mall. In fact, the exit is about 10-12 feet straight ahead from where I had turned toward the restrooms. I decided to look in Belk’s which is a short distance from there. . I didn’t go through the entire store, but I didn’t see any sign of her and went back to the bookstore where I found the two women with whom I had spoken earlier. They had been looking around Barnes & Noble and hadn’t found her. I decided to check with the store about contacting security. They did that for me.

Two security officers arrived. I showed them a picture of Kate and described what she was wearing. They asked me to stay put, and they would look in Belk’s and around the outside of the mall. About 10 minutes later, I received a phone call that they had found her. She was in Belk’s. In a few minutes, they were back at Barnes & Noble.

Kate did not seem panicked at all, but she was relieved to see me. In each of the other instances in which she has been lost, she has been very calm and even joked about the situation. That did not occur today. I suspect that may be because her memory is so bad now that she had absolutely no idea where she was and, of course, no way to find me. She probably didn’t remember we had been in Barnes & Noble. It is impossible for me to fully grasp what she might have been thinking or feeling. I know we were both relieved. She had been missing between 20 and 30 minutes. I am just glad we were in a place where it was unlikely for her to have gone far. The possibility of losing her is one of the reasons we have stopped our major travel. This experience reinforces my belief that that was a good idea.

Lost in the Atlanta Airport

About 2:15, Kate went into the restroom at the Atlanta airport. As is my custom, I waited for her right at the entrance where she walked in. Ten or fifteen minutes passed (which is not unusual), and I began to be concerned. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 3:00. I started to look around the area to see if she might somehow have gotten out without my seeing her or her seeing me. That seemed impossible. Then I looked to my left and noticed another entrance/exit to the restroom. It hit me. She had come out that exit. Since she didn’t see me, she just walked out. Where she went was the question. I asked a couple of women who were going into the restroom to make sure she wasn’t still there. Then I approached an airport employee who suggested I ask a Delta agent. I walked over to the gate across from the restroom and saw two other airport employees. They both went into the restroom looking for her and calling her name. No luck.

In the meantime, I walked all the way down to the gate where our flight to Dallas was to board. Because her habit is to wait for me to find her, I looked at and around the seating area at each gate. I didn’t find her. Next the airport employee suggested that we page her. We went to a Delta help desk where they did that.

I decided to walk down to our gate one more time and look for her along the way. I discovered that our flight was about ten minutes late in boarding. That made me feel a little better. The employee who had been helping me walked to the gate. Then the two of us headed in the direction of the restroom, each of us looking at and around the seating areas. As we were nearing the restroom where all this drama began, I saw her sitting in one of these areas. She was very calm. She was simply waiting patiently for me to find her. What a relief.

By then, I thought surely we were too late to board, but we walked back to the gate. We got there as they were loading the last few passengers. As we waited in line to get on the plane, I asked Kate if she had been worried. She said she hadn’t, that she knew I would find her. I told her I had had her paged. She said, “I heard it. I thought it was a come on. Didn’t you think of that?” I told her I hadn’t. She said proudly, “Well, that was the first thing I thought of.” We got on the plane without anyone’s realizing there was a problem. We are now in our seats, and the plane is taxiing to the runway for departure. A near catastrophe averted.

More Firsts

We’ve been regulars at Panera for quite some time, now. Kate often gets up from our table and goes to the restroom. She has always found it without asking me for help. I am unaware of her asking anyone else, although that is certainly possible. Our regular table is right around the corner from the restrooms, so I am inclined to think that she hasn’t had to ask. Until today, that is. This afternoon before we prepared to leave for dinner, she asked me the location of the restroom. I took her part way there (we were not seated at our regular table which may account for her not knowing where it was) and told her to turn left. I watched for her so she was able to return to our table without difficulty.

This morning, however, she and I went to our regular table where I put my iPad and my cup on the table, got my computer out of its case, and sat down at the table. She had her iPad with her along with her cup. She went directly to the drinks which is in a direct line from our table only a few feet away. After a few minutes, she hadn’t returned to the table. I didn’t see her anywhere around the area in which our table is located. Then I thought she might have gone to the restroom. I looked around the entire dining area and found her in the front section sitting there with her cup and working puzzles on her iPad. I went over to her and asked if she would like to join me. I didn’t say anything else, and neither did she. She closed her iPad, picked up her cup and coat, and walked with me to our regular table.

I am quite accustomed to her not being able to find me when our regular table and the ones around it are occupied. In those instances I stand and wait in a place where we can see each other when she has gotten her drink. Prior to this, she has not failed to come directly to our regular table; so we had two firsts in one day. These two events notwithstanding, we had a really nice day. Again, she was in a good humor all day.

Lost, But Only Momentarily

Kate and I are still in the breakfast area of the hotel though I expect to leave for Panera shortly. A few minutes ago, she asked the location of the restrooms. I told her and pointed in the direction of the hallway off the dining area. I watched as she walked away and noticed that she followed my directions and went down the hallway. I didn’t watch to see if she had any trouble finding the restroom. This was a replay of what happened yesterday. I watched for her to return and found that she had walked by the dining area into the main part of the lobby and was circling back. As she walked, she looked from right to left and back again trying to find me. Finally, our eyes met and she walked over. I said, “You found me.” She proudly acknowledged that she had. Then she smiled and said, “Well, I made one wrong turn.” Even though I was watching for her, I wasn’t worried about her. This is a fairly small area. I knew she would find me. Of course, by keeping an eye out, I could have quickly jumped in to steer her back on course.

This is a frequent occurrence. She never seems to be concerned. She just calmly looks around. In the event that she does not see me, she takes a seat and waits for me to find her. I have done so a number of times, sometimes with help. Recently, a server at a restaurant where we were dining approached my table and asked if my wife was with me. When I said yes, he told me she was sitting in a booth in the next room. I walked over where she was calmly waiting for me and brought her back to our table.

Lost Yet Again at Chautauqua

This is a post I would rather not write. I am driven to do so by the possibility someone out there might have the mistaken idea that I am caring for Kate perfectly. I left Kate at the apartment this afternoon for about an hour and a half. When I returned, she was gone.

I wouldn’t have done this at all if I hadn’t gotten her out of bed this morning at 10:30 to get to the morning lecture at 10:45. That was followed by lunch, a quick stop by the apartment to brush teeth, and on to a 2:00 lecture with Bill Moyers. Before coming this year, there were two speakers I definitely wanted to hear. One is Alan Cooperman who heads the division of research on religion at Pew Research. I have read so many of his study findings and wanted to hear his presentation.

Knowing that Kate would want to have a break, I brought her back to the apartment. She said she was going to rest a while. I told her I didn’t want her to go anywhere. She said, “Oh, I wouldn’t go anywhere.” Of course, I knew she couldn’t remember.

When I returned and found her gone, I was panicked. It was daylight, and it is a safe place. On the other hand, it was beginning to rain. I knew she hadn’t taken an umbrella or rain jacket. The first thing I did was to walk across the street to the Brick Walk Cafe to see if she might be there. Then I walked around the Plaza and went into the book store. I came back to the apartment and checked again. I saw the neighbor in the apartment next to us and told her to be on the look out. I left to retrace my steps and still did not find her. I decided to contact security. I did so by going to the visitors’ center. They called security for me. I gave them a description of her. Then I went to the market here on the plaza and bought some gauze and hydrogen peroxide to clean up several cuts to my arm. I had taken a fall on the way back from the 3:30 lecture. There I told the people about Kate. I also told a driver of one of the small buses that circulate the area to be on alert for her. I told people at a dress shop in St. Elmo about her as well. On the way back to the apartment I saw a young man, Kyle, who was driving a golf cart and stopped him. It turned out he was with security and was out looking for her. As I was talking to him, I got a call from a man who said she was with him on Robert Street. I thought he was with security, but it turned out that he was with the Ecumenical House that is around the corner from our apartment. She apparently wandered over there. I will have to find out how he got my phone number and to thank him.

Our Trip to Lubbock: Part 1

Getting ready for and traveling to Lubbock has provided me with additional information on Kate’s condition. It is amazing how much I can overlook until something special happens to alert me. In this case, I am specifically talking about Kate’s loss of short-term memory. This is a term I have used for a long time in this journal, perhaps several years. In each instance, I have used it to convey that she forgets things quickly. Looking back, I can see that the same words (short-term memory) do not communicate the same set of events. What I thought was short-term memory then I now think of us “medium-term” memory. Let me describe what short-term memory was like as we prepared for and left on this trip.

For months, I have been telling Kate that we would be going to Lubbock for our oldest grandson’s high school graduation. During the week or so before our departure this past Friday (today is Monday), I frequently reminded her that we would leave in one week (4 days, 1 day, etc.) for Lubbock. Usually I mentioned that we were going for Brian’s high school graduation. Sometimes I didn’t. In those cases, she would express surprise that we were going. Then I would remind her of the graduation.

Friday morning when she woke up, I reminded her that we were going to Lubbock for the graduation. Throughout the morning as we prepared to leave she forgot that we were going. As we walked from the car to the terminal in Knoxville, I said something about her being very trusting of me, that she probably didn’t know where we were going. I asked if she would like me to tell her. I did, and she expressed surprise.

A few minutes before we touched down in Lubbock, I told her that we were coming in 25 minutes ahead of schedule. She asked, “Tell me again where we are going?” I told her once again. For me, this was a dramatic example of her having essentially no short-term memory at all. I have heard other people talk about this, but this is the first time I have really understood how much memory she has lost.

Once here, she has been surprised that Jesse is also here although I have been telling her that as well.

Traveling itself presents its own problems. We arrived at the airport early enough to get a bite to eat before our noon flight. Kate stood beside and slightly behind me as we ordered our food. After I had paid, I turned to hand Kate her food and noticed that she was gone. I looked all around and couldn’t see her. I took our food to a nearby table and then started looking around the area. I decided that she must have gone to the restroom. As I was looking, the woman from whom I bought our food mentioned that she might be in the restroom. I told her I thought that might be the case, but that she has Alzheimer’s, and I was concerned that she would not be able to find her way back. I was very alarmed as we were in a small area; so she couldn’t go far unless she went completely back to the main terminal area. I told the woman what Kate was wearing. In a few minutes, the woman had found Kate wandering around.

This incident is just another reminder of how quickly she can get away. In the Atlanta airport, we almost had another one. We were waiting in line to give our boarding passes to the attendant at the gate before they started boarding. When the line started to move forward, I saw Kate turn around and walk away in the other direction. She had apparently gotten tired of standing in line and simply wanted to move around. The problem is that without any short-term memory, she won’t remember to come back or where to come back to. Fortunately, I was able to call her. She came back and all everything was fine.

I am beginning to feel less comfortable letting her go to restrooms. I am now reluctant to leave her alone while I go to the men’s room. This was not a problem on this trip. I did feel all right going to the restroom at Panera in Knoxville before leaving for the airport. Then I was able to go on the plane, something that she rarely does. We have two other planned trips, one to Chautauqua in July and the second to Fort Worth for our 55th TCU class reunion in October. I wonder how I will feel about traveling when the time comes.

Our first full day in Lubbock

We had a good first day in Lubbock yesterday. I slept until 6:30 which enabled me to get to the breakfast shortly after it opened at 7:00. This is the first time that I have brought breakfast back to the room instead of eating in the breakfast room. I just didn’t feel comfortable leaving her.

We are at breakfast on Monday morning. I told Kate that I had just received a text from Kevin. She said, “Kevin?” I said, “Are you surprised?” She said, “Well, yes.” I didn’t say anything more. I sent Kevin a text telling him where we are. He sent a reply, and I mentioned it to Kate. She said, “Where are we?” I told her Lubbock and that we are here for Brian’s high school graduation.

The scariest thing that has happened so far, and I am at fault.

Tonight Kate and I went to the Royal George Theater in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario to see Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession. I had forgotten until we arrived at the theater that I could not get seats together. I gave Kate the seat on Row C, Seat 19 while I took Row J, Seat 10. Knowing that Kate might be confused in locating her seat, I went with her along with the usher to Row C. The usher walked in front of her. I walked behind. There was only one empty seat, #19, and it was the third seat in from the aisle where we were standing. Both the usher and I pointed to the seat that was hers. Then I left to find my seat.

At the end of the first half, I got up to see if Kate would like something to drink. Most of the people were coming out; so I had to wait a few minutes before proceeding to her seat. When I got there, her seat was empty. I was surprised because I couldn’t understand how she had gotten past me. That led me to go back to the lobby. I didn’t see her there. Then I went outside where many of the audience were passing time. She was nowhere to be found. I asked one of the ushers if she had seen her. No luck. Then I went back outside and saw the woman whose seat was beside Kate’s on the left. She didn’t recall seeing Kate get up and didn’t seem to remember seeing Kate at all. I went downstairs to the ladies room. There was a long line. I waited a while. She didn’t come out. The woman seated next to Kate came down. I asked her to see if Kate were in the restroom. She was not.

I watched as the audience returned to their seats and they were about to close the doors. The theater manager held them open a little longer thinking she might show up. I couldn’t imagine that, but I appreciated their efforts. I told the manager I would go back to our hotel to see if she had gone there. I knew she would be unable to find it on her own but thought someone might have helped her find it. I also knew she wouldn’t remember the name of the hotel.

As I started walking, I turned on my phone. I saw that I had received a call from a Niagara-on-the-Lake number. It came in at exactly 8:45. Intermission was not until 9:00 or shortly thereafter. There was no voicemail message; so I called the number. It was 9:23. No one answered. I called just about every extension. I did, however, get the name of the place from which the call was made; so I walked 3 blocks down the street to the hotel.

There were two people at the desk. One of them was the person who had called. She said Kate had come into the hotel lobby and was looking at some printed materials they had on display. Megan was on the phone at the time. When she got off, she asked Kate if she could help her. Kate said that she and I were staying at the hotel. The woman checked the guest list, and we were not on it. Kate said she must have been mistaken. She asked the woman to call my cell which she did. She said she thought Kate had talked with me because she gave the phone back, thanked her, and then went outside presumably to meet me. The employee felt terrible about letting her get away. I tried to reassure her and told her if anyone were to blame, it is I. She stayed with me for about an hour after that. During that time we went back to the theater where the manager was standing outside looking for anyone fitting Kate’s description.

Before we left, we called 911. I gave all the information to the woman who answered the phone. I did the same thing when the police arrived. They had several cars. Three or four of the officers walked the streets checking on her. They had also put out the word to be looking for her. Fortunately, I had two pictures of her today in the clothes she was wearing. I was able to share them with the police though as it turned out that was not necessary.

The theater manager was quite helpful. She decided to lock the side doors of the theater and have everyone walk out the front entrance. She stood on one side. I stood on the other. We were looking to see if Kate had someone come back into the theater. No such luck.

One of the officers and I did a search of the ground level of our hotel in case she had come back there. We did not find a sign of her. No one at the hotel had seen her. Finally, the officer said he felt he should go out on the streets with the other officers to continue the search. He told me I should stay at the hotel in case she came back there. I stood outside the hotel as the officer walked away. Before he was out of sight, he turned around and came back toward me. He had his cell phone to his ear. When he was close enough for me to hear, he said, “They found her. They’re bringing her here right now.”

When Kate arrived in the police car, I asked where they had found her. He said she was in the tavern of a hotel down the street drinking a glass of water. Kate was as “cool as a cucumber.” She told the police officer that “My husband can tell you I’m not good with directions.” She said she never panicked during the whole time. I don’t know how long that was, but it appears from the people who were sitting on either side of her in the theater that she never sat down. That would have been a few minutes before 8:00. They found her about 11:15. Even the woman at the hotel corroborated her story that she was cool. She said that she would never have guessed that Kate has Alzheimer’s and that she seemed at ease. There was no sign of alarm.

Kate and I talked about the events of the night back in our hotel room. I said, “Well, we’ll have quite a story to tell.” She told me she did just what I had always told her, “Just stay in one place. I will find you.” She said she talked with a number of people in the tavern, and they were very nice.

I also told her I thought that it would be good for her to carry something with her that would have my cell phone number and the place we were staying. She agreed that was a good idea. I thought she might balk at that. The interesting thing is that I had brought some of my business cards with me along with a plastic case attached to a lanyard just for this purpose.

So how or why did it happen? I’ll never know exactly, but here is my best guess. Although I explained that we were sitting separately and went with her to her seat, I think she simply forgot even though it had been only moments before. She must have looked around before going to take her seat and wondered where I was. Thinking that she had walked away from me, she went to find me.

I feel like saying, “You can’t imagine my relief,” but I suspect you might have a sense of it. It was a nightmare. I consider it a major error on my part and feel rotten about it.

It is now 12:43 am. Kate is asleep. I am about to join her, but I just had to get this down while everything is fresh on my mind. Now if I can just get to sleep.

Lost in St. Thomas

We caught a taxi into Charlotte Amalie around 11:00 this morning. We went to a small local restaurant recommended to us by a woman working a tourist information kiosk. Shortly after we were seated, Kate asked, “What do I usually get here?” I told her that we hadn’t been to this restaurant before. Moments later she saw a waitress passing by and said, “I remember her from yesterday.” When the waitress walked by again, Kate waved to her and said, “Nice to see you again.”

We sat next to a couple from Sacramento whose son is on the faculty at the UT. It turns out their stateroom is on the same deck as ours.

After lunch we walked around for a short time but decided we would be happier back at the ship. We caught a taxi back to the port where we went into a gift shop where I bought a ceramic coffee cup that I want to use for Dad’s ashes when we scatter them on this Friday afternoon. I told Kate I was going to the register to pay for the cup. She was still in the shop at that time. When I left the register, I didn’t see her. I then looked around the shop and still didn’t see her. That led to my going outside. A man from another cruise ship noticed that I was looking around. He jokingly said, “Lose something?” I told him, “My wife.” He went on to say that wasn’t so bad. I could always get another one. I didn’t try to explain but as I moved around the gift shop and looked outside, he kept talking. I told him that in this case, I was really worried, that my wife had Alzheimer’s. He and his wife then helped me look for her but they had to meet a group for a shore excursion of their own. After 15 minutes or so I decided to walk toward the ship thinking that because of its size, she was bound to see it and might go there. When I reached the check-in gate, she was there waiting for me. She did not seem disturbed. We haven’t discussed it at all, but it was quite a scare because she violated a rule that we have had a long time: “Stay in one spot so that I can find you.” That would have been the gift shop.

Lost a Third Time

I lost Kate once again, but this is the time that has concerned me most because I believe it signals a new stage in her decline. We had been to the Brick Walk Café to get her a Dr. Pepper. Then we went to the Maple Group Real Estate to arrange for next year’s visit to Chautauqua. From there we were going to watch the Scott Roselle Talk Show. As we passed by our apartment, I told Kate that I would like to get some papers up to the room and that I would be right back. When I got back, she wasn’t there. I looked all around and couldn’t find her. I went back to the Brick Walk Café, to Roselle’s show, in the library, around the Amp, as well as the streets around the inn and Bestor Plaza. While I was looking, I ran into a friend from Long Island. He offered to help me look for her. I told him he needn’t do that but he did anyway and stayed in touch by text. After an hour, I called the Chautauqua police and asked for their help. I gave him a description of her and what she was wearing. He said he would send someone to meet me at Heather’s Inn. In five minutes or so an officer arrived and took the same information from me. He said there would be two of them looking for her. He asked me to stay around the inn in case she showed up here. In about 20-25 minutes I got a call from the police saying they had found her and that they were taking her to the inn. I looked over there and saw her getting out of a security golf cart. I went over and thanked him. Kate did not seem flustered. I suspect that might have been a little different had the police not been there. She told the officer that I know how bad she is with directions. I gave her a hug, and we went upstairs to our apartment. Neither of us said anything about where she had been, how long she had been gone, or what had happened. We both understood just about all we needed to know. I did say, “I’ll bet you got hot.” She had been walking for an hour and a half. Later I asked her about her walking away. She did not want to talk about it. My interpretation is that she doesn’t really know what happened or why.

The troublesome aspect of this is that this Is the first time she has gotten lost by walking away, and it happened so quickly. In prior situations it has occurred because she did not follow me or she simply got lost because she forgot where she was supposed to go. I fear that this means she could mean we are reaching a point where I cannot trust that she will stay in a given location. This afternoon I did take a chance by leaving her at the apartment while I went to a session in which she had no interest. I was gone a little less than an hour. Before leaving I asked her to promise me she would not go anywhere. It was clear she understood why I said that and that this morning’s experience was one she didn’t want to relive. She said, “Believe me; I’m not going anywhere.” Of course, she may have already forgotten this experience. I know she will have forgotten by tomorrow morning.

Losing Kate Again

This morning while Kate and I were seated on the front row of Scott Roselle’s talk radio show at Chautauqua, she got up and walked outside without saying a word. Knowing how geographically challenged she is, I got up and followed her. She appeared to be looking for something as she walked toward the front door of the bookstore. Before she got to it, she started up the steps to the post office. I called to her. She stopped and I asked her where she was going. She said she was going to the rest room. I told her the rest rooms were behind the library and took her there. I knew from past experienced that it would not be easy for her to find it. Before she went in, I pointed to the place where we had been and told her to meet me there. I said, “Just turn left when you come out.” Then I went back to where we had left our cushions and iPads on the front row of Roselle’s show. (BTW, he was interviewing Erik Larson.) I sat for a moment and then gathered our belongings and walked back to the restroom. I didn’t see her; so I waited outside the door. In a few minutes, a woman walked out. I described Kate and asked her if she had seen her. She said she hadn’t but went back in to look after I told her that Kate has Alzheimer’s. It turns out that Kate wasn’t there. That put me in a quandary. I looked for her for about 15 minutes, perhaps more, walking in the area near the restroom, the front of the library, the brick walk, and our apartment. I finally saw her standing in front of our apartment. She was looking at it as though she was confused as to whether this was the way into our apartment or not. I walked up to her. I didn’t say a word. I just put my arms around her. She rested her head on my shoulder. She didn’t say anything either. We haven’t spoken about it, but it was clear that she had been frightened and relieved to see me.