I spoke too soon.

Not long after uploading my previous post, I went back to the bedroom. I saw that Kate was awake and walked over to her. She was having a similar, but milder, attack like those she experienced the past four mornings. I said, “Are you all right?” She said, “I think so. I don’t know.” I told her I would like to help her if I could. I asked if she would like me to bring my laptop to the bedroom and stay with her. She nodded. I returned and put on some music.

She never went back to sleep. I doubt that she had been to sleep since getting up to go to the bathroom at 7:45. Around 9:30, she sat up on the side of the bed. She was still confused, but she didn’t seem to be troubled the way she was earlier. She said, “What now?” I told her I thought it might be good for her to get dressed and get her something to eat. I mentioned getting a muffin. She didn’t say anything, but she looked as though she had never heard of a muffin.

I helped her to her feet and told her I wanted to show her something. We walked hand-in-hand to the hallway outside our bedroom. We stopped at a picture of her grandmother. I told her this was somebody very important to her. Then I explained that she was the first member of Kate’s family to attend TCU. She was pleased about that. I was glad to see her response because a few days ago I mentioned TCU, and it didn’t mean anything to her. That was a first.

After talking with her about her grandmother, I focused her attention on the next photo. It was her mother when she was around 19 or 20. Kate didn’t recognize her but was taken with the picture. As she often does, she noted her mother’s eyes and smile. She commented more extensively than usual on this and other pictures that I showed her. I can’t remember exactly what she said, but she interpreted her mother’s personality based on what she saw in her mother’s face. By this time, she seemed just fine.

We went on to two other photos, one of her grandfather on her father’s side and then her father. From there we walked into the family room where I showed her a picture of our daughter’s twin boys when they were about 5 or 6. As we entered the room, she said, “You’re really helping me.” She always likes children whether in person or photos. Thus, she was enthralled at the twins’ picture. Again, she tried to interpret their personalities from what she saw.

I took her to the sofa and asked her to sit down so that I could show her something else. I picked up the “Big Sister” album and called her attention to the cover picture. This time she didn’t recognize either herself or her brother, but she was taken with the children, especially their eyes and smiles.

We talked about them for a few minutes. Then she said she was cold. She was still in her nightgown and bare feet. I suggested we get her dressed. I helped her stand up and, as we walked to the bedroom, she said, “I’m bouncing back thanks to you.” I was particularly struck by her recognition that she was “bouncing back.” It had been thirty minutes since she had gotten out of bed. I was surprised that she could remember how she felt that long ago. Once again, we had found our way out of what might have been a crisis. It’s a relief when this happens.

Another Morning of Anxiety

As I have described the past three mornings, yesterday Kate’s memory was almost completely blank again. In some ways this isn’t unusual. Over the past year she has often not known where she is or who she and I are when she wakes. The difference the past few days is the anxiety that accompanies it. In the past, I would tell her. Then she seemed to be all right even though she might ask the same questions again right away. During each of the past few days she has been more concerned, even frightened, about not knowing these things. The first experience on Saturday was the most intense. It also lasted an hour.

Her experience yesterday was different in that it was milder and shorter in duration. She was very sleepy. I didn’t attempt to show her any pictures of her family. I focused primarily on comforting her. I did play the same music I had played the previous days. I got in bed with her. She began to relax and fell asleep within fifteen minutes. I brought my laptop back to the bedroom and stayed with her until it was time for lunch. She was fine when I got her up.

We met one of our associate pastors and his wife for lunch at Casa Bella. Kate has always liked him and his wife. She wasn’t talkative, but she enjoyed being with them. They probably would never have imagined the state she was in a little earlier. Her ability to bounce back is another way in which we have been fortunate.

This morning at 7:45, she started to get up. I went to the bedroom. She was unusually alert and seemed like she didn’t need my help. I walked her to the bathroom and back to bed. She thanked me and said, “You’re really a nice guy.” She is asleep again. We’re off to a good start. I’m hopeful that she will be fine when I get her up for lunch.

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.

My Experiment with Another Movie

For most of our marriage, especially before having children and after they left home, Kate and I have enjoyed movies. It was natural to include them among the variety of priorities on which we focused after her diagnosis. We found the best selection of movies at a local arts theater and have been members for many years. As Kate’s Alzheimer’s progressed, she was no longer able to follow a plot. At first, I thought that might be the end of movies for us. I discovered, however, that she could still enjoy some of them without understanding the plot at all. I was surprised but soon recognized what is obvious that there is more to a movie than a plot. Movies grab their audiences with a host of emotions that we experience directly by our senses of sight and hearing. We can enjoy the appeal of the characters, the beauty of the scenery, visible forms of humor, and music.

For Kate, enjoyment was heavily influenced by the nature of the characters and the seriousness or importance of the film’s focus. She liked upbeat movies with likeable characters. On the other hand, she liked more serious films like Darkest Hour. In that case, she was able to recognize the seriousness of war and its impact on the world. At the time, she also recognized the importance of Churchill. The whole tone of the movie appealed to her.

The last two movies that appealed to her were documentaries, RBG and Won’t You Be My Neighbor. We saw RBG twice and Neighbor four times. She had a strong positive feeling for each of them even though she didn’t remember them before the movies. In addition, she could sense they had led lives that had great impact.

Our moving going had already tapered off before those films. After that, I tried one or two movies without any success. She was confused and bored. I have been looking for what I thought would be the “right” movie since then. That occurred two weeks ago when I learned Pavarotti was playing. Kate has been especially drawn to opera in recent years. I decided to give it a try yesterday afternoon.

While we were at lunch, I told Kate that we would be going to a movie. I told her it was a documentary of Pavarotti. She didn’t remember him even when I told her a little about him. For the most part I was not surprised. She is forgetting most names. Why not Pavarotti’s? On the other hand, he does come up periodically in our conversation, especially in connection with some of the YouTube videos we watch in the evening. We have watched a few of his solo performances as well as those with The Three Tenors. I guess I had hoped that she might recognize the name. If she had, I would have taken that as a sign that she might have an interest in the movie. That didn’t happen.

Once the movie began, I was very optimistic. I could tell she was interested. There were a number of emotional moments during the film when she and I were both moved by the music. She held my hand and squeezed it tightly. She enjoyed his singing, but there were also times when she said, “You’re ‘gonna’ have to help me with this. I don’t understand.” She repeated that when the movie ended. Instead of getting up to leave, I talked with her briefly. I asked if she had liked it. She said, “I don’t know. I didn’t understand it.” I suggested that the important part was that she liked the music. That didn’t make any sense to her either. I found this interesting. I was trying to get her to rely on her intuitive abilities, and she was focusing on her deficit of rational abilities.

All-in-all I have to give Kate’s experience “mixed reviews.” I had hoped that she would leave with a good feeling about having gone, but she didn’t. By the time we reached the car, she didn’t remember seeing the movie. I probably won’t take her to another one. I’ll add this to the growing list of things that we are dropping from our lives.

Sunday in Nashville

We had a nice day in Nashville yesterday. I had made noon reservations for lunch at Maggiano’s near our hotel, but we got there at 11:15 because Kate woke up earlier than I expected. I always like it when she wakes up on her own. That means I don’t have to be concerned about waking her and the challenges that sometimes presents.

We had a good meal and a pleasant time. The last time we were there it was Father’s Day and a little noisy. It was much quieter yesterday and very relaxing.

Before leaving, Kate went to the restroom. I took the opportunity to go to the men’s room rather than waiting outside the ladies room. Moments after I went in, I heard her call me. When I opened the door I saw her looking around for me. She expressed a big sigh of relief when she saw me. I felt bad about not being there as she walked out, but she came out so quickly. She could not have used the toilet. I suspect she got confused and just turned around and came out.

As we left the restaurant, Kate saw a poster with a photo of Frank Sinatra. She stopped to look and naturally asked me who it was. We had been to this restaurant several times before, and neither of us had noticed it. I chuckled because she always asks who he is in posters on the wall at Andriana’s when we are there. She said something to the hostess who told her that Sinatra died some time ago. Kate said, “He did. I didn’t know that.”

Our visit with Ellen went well although understanding her is a big problem. She hadn’t declined since last time, but it is hard to have a good conversation when you can only understand about 10% of what she says. I relied on YouTube videos that she and we enjoyed until Emily, the music lady, arrived to entertain the residents in Ellen’s “neighborhood.”

As we gathered around the piano, one of the staff dropped something that made loud noise at the nurse’s station. Kate is getting increasingly sensitive about surprises, especially sudden noises. She responded audibly that was almost as loud as the noise that frightened her. One of the residents spoke up quickly and told Kate that she had the same problem.

Remembering how Kate had sung, danced, and cheered last month made me eager to see how she would react to the music. She did enjoy the music and sang along rather quietly but was never tempted to do any of the things she did last time. I guess she was just in a different mood. She was more like herself than the previous visit.

Later as we drove to Knoxville, I told Kate we were close and would stop for dinner before going home. She said, “I don’t have any money.” I told her I had money. She said, “I will pay you back when we get home.” When I parked the car at Andriana’s, she again told me that she didn’t have any money. I told her that was all right. It was all “our” money. She said, “I guess that’s right.” She quickly forgot, however. As we walked from the car to the restaurant, she told me she didn’t have any money. I told her I would pay. She said she would pay me back. One other time she mentioned it while eating. This was something unusual. I don’t ever recall her saying this before.  Of course, it fits if she thought I was a friend instead of her husband. It would still be the first time she has raised a question of her paying for anything when we are together. On quite a few occasions, she has been concerned about not having money when I leave her with a sitter. In those cases, I have always told her that I left money or a card with the sitter.

While we were waiting for our meal, she asked our server if she knew her name. The server said, Yes, it’s Kate.” Then Kate asked the server’s name. This was shortly after the server had introduced herself since she sensed that Kate had not recognized her. The server said something about “your husband,” and Kate said, “We’re friends.” I said, “Very good friends.” Kate said, “Yes.” All of our servers know about Kate’s Alzheimer’s, but this particular server has had the opportunity to observe her memory problems more than any other. I don’t think it’s because Kate is more comfortable with her. I believe it is just a chance occurrence.

I mentioned earlier that Kate had taken interest in a poster of Frank Sinatra when we had lunch at Maggiano’s. At dinner, she may have set a record for the number of times she said, “Who is that?” while looking at a poster of him at Andriana’s. I didn’t count, but I am sure it was well over ten times, some in rapid succession.

When we got home, she started going through two of the guest rooms. She acted as though we were moving, and she needed to decide what to take with us. She went into a guest room and picked up a couple of things. I suggested we relax a while and that she could work on that tomorrow. She agreed.

When we got to the bedroom, she asked what she should do. I told her she could start by taking the pills I had put on her bedside table. It looked like she was going to do it but started to undress for bed. It seemed like she was just randomly selecting what to do although she was asking me to tell her. She didn’t seem to follow any of my instructions after asking for them.

While I was brushing my teeth, she called to me and said, “Where is he?” I asked who she was talking about. She said, “You know.” I told her I really didn’t and that she and I were the only ones in the house. She was puzzled but didn’t pursue it further.

She went to bed almost an hour before I did. When I got in bed, she was still awake. We talked about having had a nice day and that we have many nice days. That led to a comment or two about our marriage. Then she said, “We are able to talk to each other. We’re able to be really honest with each other.” Then she suggested something I never fully understood. She talked about how our relationship could grow even further by talking with other people about it. I said, “Do you mean a counselor?” She said, “That could be, but I was just thinking about people we know.” At first, it sounded to me as though she thought we had a problem we needed to work through. The more the more she talked the more it sounded like just improving on the relationship we already have. I don’t know how long she talked, but she sounded very thoughtful as she considered the benefits of exploring ways of enhancing our relationship.

This conversation and a couple of others we have had recently has impressed me with her rational ability to think through something like this. Sometimes she says that I underestimate how smart she is. She may be right.

Yesterday’s Lunch Conversation

I wasn’t at all surprised that Kate was up earlier than usual yesterday morning. She had rested plenty the day before. She was also alert and even called me by name. She got ready early enough for us to make a trip to Panera before leaving for lunch.

It was an unusually pleasant and leisurely lunch that was a beautiful example of how much pleasure one can have living in the world of a person with dementia. We had at least a thirty-minute conversation that a listener might have found interesting without realizing that Kate has Alzheimer’s.

It began when I said something about a memory of a sailing trip my brother and I took in the Virgin Islands with our two sons when they were about twelve or thirteen. Kate often responds to something like this by saying, “Why didn’t you take me?” That prompted me to say that except for business trips it was the only trip I had ever taken without her.

As I started to tell her the story of that trip, I mentioned Kevin’s name. Our conversation seemed so normal that I assumed she knew that she was Kevin’s mother. Then she said, “You’re a father?” I told her I was and said, “And you’re a mother.” She scowled and said, “No, I’m not.” That led me to ask how she thought we were related. She said, “Friends. Good friends.” I said, “Who are living together.” She frowned and said, “I would not express it like that. I’m surprised that you would even say that.” I said, “Why not? We live together.” She said, “Yes, but you know what I mean.” I said, “We’ve lived together for a long time.” She said, “That’s different.” I asked if she would ever think about having children. She said, “I would like to have children some day but not yet.” Then she said something funny, but I can’t remember what. I said, “That’s one of the things I like about you. You can be funny.” She said, “Only around you. When I am with my girl friends, they don’t think I’m funny.”

About that time, I suggested it was time to leave. I said, “I love you.” I read her lips. She said, “I love you too.” And we left for home.

A Visit With Nashville Friends

We drove to Nashville yesterday afternoon to have dinner with longtime friends Jan and Scott Greeley. Kate and Scott have known each other since infancy. Their mothers were friends and pregnant with the two of them at the same time. We spent the night in a hotel and will have lunch with them before going home this afternoon.

It had been about six months since we last saw them. Kate has changed so much since then that I was eager for us to visit before she declines much more. I am glad we did. This was the first visit with any of our friends in which Kate’s changes have been so obvious. I had already prepared them in terms of conversation with her. What I hadn’t done was to let them know of her physical changes as well. In fact, it is something I have only mentioned in passing in my blog. They discovered this before we even got in the house.

They saw us drive up and came out to greet us. We walked up two or three steps to enter their house. Kate is fearful of falling, and she struggled to get up the steps and into the house. She also expressed audible expressions of anguish. This, too, is something that is common. As we entered the house she wanted to hold my hand. This is something that has become increasing common just in the past few weeks. She is very unsure of herself in unfamiliar places. It’s more than a fear of falling. She doesn’t know where she is going, so she holds my hand to guide her.

Over the past few days, I had been trying to refresh her memory about our relationship with them. Of course, I know that she can’t remember, but I wanted to try anyway. It was of no use. Even after reminders as we got close to their house, she had no idea where we were going and who we would see. For the most part, she handled herself well. I don’t think she said or did anything that suggested she didn’t know them. I believe she felt a general sense of familiarity with them but not as strongly as I had hoped.

The Greeleys are making a trip to New Zealand in December and had asked me to bring pictures from our visit there in 2014. We chatted about hour before looking at our slides. Kate was tired and wanted to lie down. She took a seat in a lounge chair and rested while we continued the slide show. When we were finished, we walked into the den where Kate was resting. Scott said something, and Kate said, “You’re a pretty nice guy, and I don’t even know who you are.”

Going out to eat gave the Greeleys another sign of her physical challenges. There was nothing dramatic, but she walked very slowly. She was unsure of herself as we entered the restaurant. She wanted to hold my hand most of the way to our table. Getting into and out of the booth she seemed like a person much older than she is.

I find moments like this to be sad ones. Because of their history together, Kate has always felt very close to Scott. It was sad that she couldn’t remember him. He and Jan gave her two photos taken when the two of them were in high school. I will put them in the three-ring binder that I call her memory book, although they didn’t prompt the enthusiasm that I would have liked. Kate has clearly reached a new stage.

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.

Changes Abound

Since Kate’s diagnosis, she has declined very gradually, imperceptibly at each moment but clearer at the end of each year. The pace stepped up about a year ago and again in the past few weeks or months. I lose track. For a long time, she and I have rehearsed the names of people we will see when we go out. Recently, she seems more concerned about remembering them. I am not surprised. It is impossible for her. She doesn’t do well repeating them back in our “rehearsals” in the car. The desire to get them right, however, is still strong even though most of the situations don’t require the use of names at all.

Last night was opera night at Casa Bella, and I did something different as we met people we know on our way in and as others who came in after us. Typically, I have said, “Kate you remember Paula and Bill” or whomever. This time I simply said, “Kate, this is Paula and Bill.” To me it took the emphasis off of her failure to remember and gave her the sense that she was meeting them for the first time. From her perspective, she was. All of the people I introduced know about her Alzheimer’s and have been very kind to her. I am sure each one recognized that I was trying to be kind to her myself.

That wasn’t the only difference last night. She is also getting more insecure about doing the right things when we are out. Even though I have been ordering her meals for years, she has started taking an interest in looking at the menu. It’s hard for her to read, and she gets frustrated with all the selections. She then turns to me and asks what I recommend for her or says, “What am I going to have?” Of course, she can’t remember my answer. That requires asking multiple times. Last night was the first time I recall her doing this with other people present. When she asked, I said, “I think we should get the veal piccata. It’s always been our favorite.” She said, “Order for me.” She asked at least a couple of additional times before our server took the order.

Something else occurred, but no one else would have noticed. I was seated diagonally across the table from her during the music. I noticed her looking very carefully at the man directly across from her. She was puzzled. She looked to her left and to her right. In a moment, her eyes caught mine. She gave a very subtle sigh of relief. Then she smiled. I knew that she didn’t know where I was. She was uneasy. I have definitely become her security blanket.

Yesterday in an email to my friends Tom Robinson and Bruce Morton, I mentioned something about Kate’s frequently overlooking food on her plate. I often point out half a sandwich or a significant part of her entrée that she hasn’t eaten. This is an issue with her eyesight that seems to be a result of her Alzheimer’s. Her ophthalmologist hasn’t located anything in her eyes that should account for it. There is something else that plays a part. She never remembers what I order or what she is eating except when she sees it. She forgets between bites. Thus, she lacks a memory that might clue her into recognizing she hasn’t eaten her entrée. This happened just this past Saturday. She had eaten half of her sweet potato fries before I reminded her of her salmon. She hadn’t remembered it, and she didn’t notice even though it was right in front of her.

It is impossible for us to fully understand what it is like for someone with dementia. We can only try.