A Special Moment Last Night

Before going to bed last night, I put on several YouTube videos. One of them was Andrea Bocelli singing “The Lord’s Prayer.” Kate was immediately engaged and put down her iPad to listen. The next one that came up was Alfie Boe singing “Bring Him Home.” The YouTube algorhythm must have selected it because it is a prayer from Les Misérables. I was seated in the chair by my side of the bed while she sat in a chair on the other side. I looked over at her and saw that she had closed her eyes and put her hands together in front of her in a praying position. She was fairly still, but I could see some physical responses in rhythm with the music. She was hanging on every word he was singing. She loves the highest note on the final word when he ends with the plea “Bring Him Home” (as does everybody else).  Before he got the word out, she was already mouthing it silently. She, too, was praying. I was touched. Music is bringing her so many special moments.

A Very Good Day

About 7:30 yesterday morning, the video cam alerted me that Kate was getting out of bed. I went to the bedroom and walked her to the bathroom. At first, she took my hand but then felt secure enough to walk without it. She did need me to show her the way. When she came out, I asked if she needed fresh underwear, and she did. I helped her with that, and she got back into bed. As she did, she looked at me and said, “I’m sorry you have to do all this for me.” I find it very touching when she says things like this. It makes me wonder just how much she senses the seriousness of her situation. It is clear that she recognizes she has a memory problem and that she is dependent on me. She almost never displays any sense of anxiety or distress; however, I do sometimes think that she recognizes that something is wrong with her. Later in the morning she said something else that struck me the same way.

I thought she might sleep until I woke her around 10:30 or 11:00. I was quite surprised when she had gotten out of bed at 9:30. I went to the bedroom and helped her get dressed, and we were at Panera before 10:00. This was the first time we had been there before lunch in quite a while.

It was a day when she had a lot of questions. They were all the usual ones, just asked a whole lot more. She had other questions as well. Instead of being bothered by her constant questions, I found that we had a good conversation. It was a time when she seemed eager to learn things that she had forgotten.

It began as she was working a puzzle of a picture of colorful tulips in The Netherlands. She turned it around for me to see. I said, “It reminds me of the trip we took during the tulip season.” She said, “How could we afford that?” I told her that we both had been working and had saved our money for the trip. She had forgotten that she worked and asked me what she did. That led me to tell her about her majoring in English and teaching English for three years and becoming a school librarian after getting her second master’s degree. She was quite interested and, at no time, did I sense that she remembered any of this.

The conversation took various turns as she asked questions that redirected me from one thing to another. She asked me to tell her about her parents. She continues to hold strong feelings (all positive) about them, but almost never recalls their names. She didn’t yesterday, but she sometimes asks me if I knew them.  As the conversation moved along, she asked where we were. I told her we were in Knoxville, Tennessee. She asked me to repeat it slowly two or three times.

Then she said, “I’m smart, you know, but I’m stupid.” I was surprised and asked what she meant. She said, “Forget it.” I told her I really wanted to know. Then she said she didn’t know what she meant. I asked myself, “Could she maintain a long-term sense that she is smart but recognizes how bazaar it is for her to repeatedly ask questions about things she should know?” I would love to know exactly what she thinks and feels.

We went back home for a short break before going to lunch with our pastor. This, too, was quite a good experience for both of us. He and I did most of the talking, but Kate also enjoyed it. His daughter is an undergraduate looking at a possible career in neurology. We talked a lot about the brain. I am sure much of this was puzzling to Kate, but many of the things we said involved music and its effect on people with Parkinson’s and other brain issues. There were plenty of things that she could appreciate even if she didn’t fully understand.

Kate  had a massage at 3:00, and we went to Casa Bella for opera night at 6:00. Last night’s program and musicians were especially good. Kate loved the evening. What a nice day we had. Who would have guessed this would be possible eight years after her diagnosis? Her rational abilities are very weak. But her senses are still working. They provide great pleasure for both of us.

Making Progress?

Kate was getting up on her own about 11:45 yesterday when I saw her on the video cam. I went to the bedroom and asked her how she was feeling. She looked puzzled and said, “Why do you ask?” I don’t think she thought she was sick. In fact, over the past nine days she has only recognized that she coughed and had to blow her nose and that, of course, only in the moment they happened. I had told her she had a cold, but she never remembered it. Day before yesterday, she definitely felt sick. That was when I heard her wheezing. I don’t believe she has had a conception of her being sick over a few days.

The good news is that I listened for her wheezing and didn’t hear anything. Then I asked her to take a deep breath and blow out through her mouth. She did that a couple of times. I still did not hear a wheeze. That made me feel a lot better. I didn’t want to see this advance to pneumonia. Of course, both of us have had the pneumonia shots, but we all know they don’t always work the way they are supposed to. Like many others, we had a light case of the flu last year even though we had the flu shot.

In addition to not wheezing, it was a good while before she coughed after getting up. Excluding her Alzheimer’s symptoms, she also seemed more normal. When I walked in she said, “Are you my daddy?” When I told her I was her husband, she couldn’t believe it. I decided it was best not to go into an explanation and suggested she take a shower. She asked where the bathroom was, and I took her. She took a long shower, dried off, and got back in bed.

After I got her up and helped her dress, she seemed fine. She wasn’t coughing. I decided to go out to lunch When I backed he car out of the garage, she coughed several times. Then I had doubts about going out. When she stopped, I decided to go ahead. Except for a couple of briefs coughs, she was fine at lunch.

Several times she asked where we were. Of course, she has been doing that for a long time. Now there is a new twist. When I tell her we are in Knoxville, Tennessee, she often asks, “What is Knoxville?” Then I explain that it is a city and that Tennessee is the state. It is only in the past few months that she has commonly asked this. It is another sign of the subtle changes that are constantly taking place. Mixed with her questions about our location, she also thought at times we were in Fort Worth. I suspected this on the way to lunch. She commented on remembering many things she saw along the way.

We came back home after lunch. When I got out of the car, she asked if she could help bring things in. I am sure she thought we were traveling and needed to unload the car. I told her I could get everything. Let me digress a moment.

(This is something new that I have mentioned before. Over the course of her Alzheimer’s, she has rarely asked if she could help me. In the past few weeks, she has asked if she could help me fold and put up the laundry, unload the dishwasher, and now unload the car. I also mentioned in a previous post that the other night she asked if there were anything she could do to help me. In that case, she was worried that I was carrying a heavy load and wanted to ease my burden. These may seem like very little things, but they are totally different from the norm the past ten years or so. She was letting me do things even before her diagnosis.)

She said she was tired and wanted to rest but brushed her teeth first. After brushing, she walked back to me in the kitchen. I could tell by the look on her face that she wanted to know what she could do next. That is a very common thing for her to do. I gave her the iPad and said she could sit in the family room and work puzzles, and I would be there in a minute. I went back to my computer. When I had finished what I was doing, she was walking out of the family room to the back of the house. I don’t believe she even sat down to work her puzzles. Shortly, I went back to one of the guest rooms where she was resting on the bed. She has definitely been more tired since catching her cold.

About two hours later, she came into the kitchen with her iPad under her arm and stood beside me. She didn’t say anything. This, too, is a very common experience. I knew that meant she wanted to get out of the house. We went to Barnes & Noble. We had been there fifteen minutes when Kate looked up at me and said, “I forgot they had this here.” I said, “What do you mean?” She pointed to her iPad and the puzzle she was working. By now I shouldn’t be surprised that she doesn’t recognize her own iPad, but I am. This was one of those times. I wonder what could have made her think it belonged to Barnes & Noble. This is similar to what frequently happens in restaurants. As we are about to leave, she often asks if the cup or glass is hers or belongs to the restaurant. It always makes me think about how she perceives the world. I simply can’t imagine how confusing for her it must be not to know where she is, what is hers, where we are going, and what she is supposed to do. There is so much I don’t understand. No wonder she gets confused.

We had another beautiful end to our day. I had chosen a YouTube video of choral music. In its cycle from one video to the next, we landed on a series of videos by a church choir. I didn’t see any identifiers as to what church or where it is located. I will have to check today. I do know that Kate was taken with everything they sang, and almost all their music was unfamiliar to either of us. She didn’t want me to stop the videos to go to bed. Finally, I turned them off and help her get ready to bed. I had to assure her that this was not a live concert we were watching, and we could pick where we left off tonight.

A Late Start, But A Great Finish

As I had expected, Kate didn’t want to get up yesterday when I left her to attend my luncheon. I had prepared the sitter that she might want to sleep much longer. I even mentioned that if they were just getting to Panera for Kate’s lunch around the time I was to return home, I would meet them there. What I didn’t expect was to find that Kate was still sleeping soundly when I got to the house a few minutes before 2:00. The sitter told me she tried to get her up three times. Each time Kate said she wasn’t ready to get up.

After the sitter left, I went to the bedroom and sat down on the side of the bed where Kate was sleeping. She opened her eyes and smiled. That was a good sign. I asked if she were ready for lunch. She said, “What do you want me to do?” I told I thought she should get dressed and let me take her to lunch. She got up without any coaxing. It was a little after 3:00 when we left. I decided it was too late for lunch and went to Barnes & Noble where she got a muffin.

We arrived there close to 3:30. After sitting down at a table, Kate asked me at least four times in a short period of time where we were. She had done the same thing a couple of times in the car on the way there. It wasn’t long before she said, “Don’t play games. Are you going to tell me where we are or not?” Of all the times she has asked something over and over, she’s never said that before. That didn’t end it, of course. Within a few minutes she asked again.

Knowing that the muffin wouldn’t hold her long, I decided to leave for dinner before 5:00. This would not have been the first time we have eaten so early. (I remember growing up in West Palm Beach. We used to joke about all the old folks who came down from the North to spend the winter. There were lots of restaurants who catered to them and had early bird specials that drew large crowds. Now I understand a little better why they ate so early.) I think it makes sense for us to get back home early. Kate seems to go to bed earlier when we do that. I like to think that it keeps her from sleeping so late in the morning, but I’m not sure that works at all.

Our day ended very much like the day before. I watched the news while Kate worked on her iPad. Once again, she was struggling to understand how to work her puzzles. I fear that she may lose this ability far sooner than I care to believe. When I saw her put down her iPad in frustration, I walked over to her. She said she was tired and thought she would get ready for bed. I got her night clothes for her and went back to what is becoming our best friend, YouTube. I began with a video of Renee Fleming singing an aria from the opera Norma. Neither of us has seen the opera. Prior to a few weeks ago, I had never heard the aria. I discovered it while browsing YouTube for something new to watch. It is a beautiful aria, and Kate was mesmerized. She didn’t get out of her chair until it was time for bed. We watched a pot pourri of music videos before then. After Renee Fleming, we watched a beautiful choral rendition of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio.” We followed that with music by The Piano Guys, The Tabernacle Choir, and an orchestral flash mob playing “Waltz of the Flowers” in a shopping center in Israel. This brought back memories of my childhood. I loved it the first time I heard it in the sixth or seventh grade. I can’t tell you how engaged Kate was during all of them. She was more emotional than usual, at times bordering on tears. The last video was The Tabernacle Choir singing “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” It had quite an impact on Kate. Ten minutes afterward she still shed a few tears.

Because music has been so important to me, I have taken great pleasure in Kate’s enjoyment. It’s not that she hasn’t always liked music. It has played a big role in our marriage. Alzheimer’s seems to have enhanced both the impact of music and the breadth of types of music she enjoys. She doesn’t like everything. She is actually bothered by most of the music we hear in restaurants, but that leaves us with a broad range of music that we both like. With her memory loss, conversation is difficult. But it is a real joy to sit with her in our own house listening to music together and being as moved as we would have been in the grandest concert hall. These are moments I will cherish in the days ahead.

The Sitters, Music, and YouTube

What Kate and the sitters do has changed since I first engaged them a year and four months ago. That was a time when Kate and I were accustomed to going to Panera more frequently. We went almost every morning and some afternoons. When I arranged for a sitter, I bought a Panera gift card and told Kate and the sitter that they could go to Panera anytime they wanted. I remember how Kate’s eyes would light up when I said that. She looked at Panera as an outing. That was true even when it was just the two of us. With the sitter, I think it was also a way of breaking up the time until I returned.

That worked beautifully for almost a year. It began to change when Kate started sleeping later, and we weren’t going to Panera as often. I might have guessed that would make an afternoon trip even more appealing, but it didn’t. Like many things, I am not sure why. When I returned home, I often found that Kate was resting or had rested a lot while I was gone. That bothered me because I felt she wasn’t getting enough stimulation.

At the same time, I was looking for other ways to entertain Kate in the evening when we returned home from dinner. Our regular routine was for me to watch the evening news while she worked jigsaw puzzles on her iPad. I wanted her to have something else to entertain her, especially since she was beginning to have difficulty working her puzzles. I bought about ten DVDs of musicals that I thought she might enjoy. We would watch about an hour a night. Watching musicals like Les Misérables and Fiddler on the Roof could easily take us six nights. Kate loved it. She clearly has favorites. We watched Les Misérables seven times in one seven-week stretch last summer.

As I became more concerned about Kate’s time with the sitter, I decided to try the DVDs when the sitter was here. That also worked well. It was entertaining for both Kate and the sitter. I liked the idea of their engaging in something together even if it was a passive activity.

Gradually, I expanded the musical performances we watch at night by going to YouTube. Their selections are endless and growing all the time. The key is finding something that Kate will enjoy. During the fall, that meant a lot of Christmas music. I also discovered that The Tabernacle Choir seems to have one of the largest libraries of music videos. There are plenty of others as well. I often search for a particular singer, for example, Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Brightman, Andrea Bocelli, The Three Tenors, etc.

My next step was to set up the YouTube videos for the sitter and Kate to watch. That has also worked well. One time during the Christmas season, I had set up one of the Christmas videos by the Tabernacle Choir. It was about an hour in length. I told the sitter she could turn it off at the end of the program. I also mentioned that if she didn’t, it would continue with other videos. When I got home four hours later, they were still watching Tabernacle Choir videos. They hadn’t stopped the entire time I was gone. They were both happy.

Since then I have been preparing something for them to watch at least once a week, sometimes more. Yesterday was one of those days. I selected a Bill Moyers documentary about the hymn “Amazing Grace.” It was about an hour and twenty minutes. As I have done before, I told the sitter that she could turn off the TV after the program was over or let it roll over to other videos. When I got home, they were both still watching the videos. “Amazing Grace” was over long before. They were now watching musical flash mobs. This is something I hadn’t thought about. If I had, I would have probably searched for them. Instead, they had simply come up according to the algorithm used by YouTube.

Mary told me that Kate rested a couple of times during the videos but kept coming back. I suspect that was a result of her liking some more than others. The important thing is that I have found a source of amusement for Kate apart from her iPad. The bonus is that it also helps her pass the time while I am gone. At the moment I am not planning to have a video every time the sitter comes, but once or twice a week might work well.

Follow-Up to Yesterday’s Shaky Start

As Kate had wanted, I went back to the bedroom to wake her about 10:30. Although she was sound asleep, she woke up easily. I reminded her that she had asked me to wake her, something I don’t recall her doing before. (I jumped on that opportunity.) She was a little groggy but got right up with a little help. I walked her into the bathroom for her shower and turned on the water. As she took off her night gown, she asked my name. I gave her my name but didn’t mention that I am her husband. She didn’t ask.

When she finished her shower, she asked if she could lie down a little bit. I told her that would be fine. She asked me to come back and get her up. I came back about twenty minutes later. She got up willingly and asked about her clothes. I picked them up from the chair where I had put them earlier and put them beside her on the bed. I gave her a bra and said, “Let’s start with this.” She looked at it strangely. I explained that she could put it on over her head just like putting on a top. I told her it was easier than most bras. She looked at me and said, “How do you know so much about bras?” I chuckled and told her that I had observed her having some difficulty with her other bras that fasten in back and went online to find something easier. I found a company that makes clothing for seniors and ordered several of them.

Although she asked my name off and on throughout the day, she seemed to know that I am her husband. Again, I didn’t ask, but we did talk about her parents and our children. We relaxed at home in the family room after lunch. About forty-five minutes passed. Then she asked, “What is your full name?” I told her. She asked me to repeat it. I did and said, “I’m your ‘Hubby.’” She laughed, not in a way that suggested she didn’t believe but just the opposite.

She continued to work on her iPad for at least another hour before deciding to rest. I thought that was a good idea since we were going to an opera (Tosca) last night and would get home late. This was only the second time in about a year that we have attended an evening event this late. All the music nights at Casa Bella begin at 6:00 and end around 8:30. The opera started at 7:30. We didn’t get to bed until 11:30. That’s a good bit later than our normal routine.

I had been looking forward to the opera and enjoyed it; however, Kate’s experience and mine were quite different. We bumped into a number of people in the lobby we have known from various places around town. I enjoyed seeing everyone, but I think it was a bit overwhelming for Kate. She didn’t appear to recognize anyone. Fortunately, each of the encounters was brief. We were seated beside and behind people we knew. Kate talked with them at the intermission.

When it was over, she was eager to get home. She said she hadn’t been able to understand anything and had “just tuned out.” She said she enjoyed the music but didn’t know what was going on. That fit with my impression during the performance. Several times she responded enthusiastically to a number of the arias. Often she is able to enjoy various performances whose plot she can’t grasp. That happens when she can enjoy the characters or situations in which they are involved. That wasn’t the case last night. In two weeks we are going to see the Live in HD at The Met’s production of Carmen. That will be a good test. If she doesn’t enjoy that, live opera may soon be a thing of the past, not because of the music but a lack of understanding of the plot. I am hopeful that she will continue to enjoy opera night at Casa Bella for quite a while. In that case, the focus is on the music itself.

A Nice Visit with Ellen

I try to arrange for us to visit about once a month with Kate’s good friend Ellen who lives in a memory care facility in Nashville. Our last visit was the Saturday before Christmas. On Friday, I realized that we are going to be tied up the next three Saturdays and scheduled a trip to see her yesterday. It was a day when everything seemed to go well. Kate surprised me by getting up around 10:30. That gave us time for lunch and still get away before 1:00. That gets us to Nashville later than I would like, but that works best for Kate.

The visit with Ellen was a good one. We chatted for about an hour. That is challenging because it is more difficult to understand her with each visit. We could only understand about  a quarter of what she said. Fortunately, her mind is clear enough to understand us. We ask lots of “yes-or-no” questions. She either speaks the words or nods to answer. Her son is a Facebook friend who went to Clemson. I brought up some of his recent posts that included photos of his children and his trip to the Clemson/Alabama game. She enjoyed seeing those.

As we have done on our visits over the past six months, I played some YouTube videos of musical performances. Yesterday I focused on opera. She wasn’t familiar with Kristine Opalais and Jonas Kaufmann, so I played several arias and a duet of theirs. She was entranced, and so was Kate. It’s a very touching experience for the three of us. Ellen and her husband, Gordon, were neighbors of ours in the early 1970s. Our children grew up together. We celebrated many birthdays, holidays, and other special events together. Ellen was Kate’s closest friend in Knoxville. After Gordon’s death in 2013, Kate and Ellen became even closer. They had lunch together every Monday while I was at Rotary and got together at other times as well. Ellen’s stroke almost three years ago changed both their lives. With Ellen’s limited ability to communicate, music has been a powerful way for us to connect. It is truly an emotional experience. Kate was moved to tears through much of the music yesterday and frequently reached out to grab my hand. It will no doubt become even more difficult in the future as both Ellen and Kate decline. In the meantime, I intend for us to continue our visits and sharing a connection that only music can provide.

Some things work out without much effort on my part.

Although I try to avoid or minimize making any morning obligations, I have not eliminated them entirely. One of those occurred last week when I had to go for my labs at the doctor’s office. Another occurred yesterday. I had made plans to take Betty Shiffron, a church friend, to see La Traviata at one of the Live in HD at the Met performances. Kate and I usually eat at the Bluefish Grill on Saturday, and it is short walk to the theater. The last time we did this was in the spring just before Kate began sleeping so late in the morning. I told Betty we would pick her up shortly after 11:00 unless Kate were having any trouble getting up. I was concerned that I might have a problem, so I decided to start early. When I went to the bedroom around 9:00, I found that Kate had already gotten up. From there it was smooth sailing. We even had enough time to get her a muffin at Panera before leaving for Betty’s house.

We had a very pleasant lunch although it seemed to be a more challenging experience for Kate than I expected. She wanted to be engaged in the conversation but had trouble understanding what we were talking about and remembering things we had already said. Quite a few times, she said things like, “Who are you talking about?” or “What are you talking about?” It didn’t present a problem for Betty and me, but I felt sorry for Kate. Betty is not as accustomed to being with Kate and is not as sensitive about her difficulty following conversations. It was a “sink-or-swim” experience for Kate.

The Live in HD at The Met performances significantly increased Kate’s enjoyment of opera. Although we had attended operas before then, I think she went more for my benefit than hers. Seeing opera on the big screen with the camera work that brings the viewer up close has made her enthusiastic. She has changed a lot since the spring, and I wondered how she would respond. Several years ago I had a “walk-on” role in La Traviata when a European opera company came to Knoxville. In addition, Kate and I attended a performance of the opera in Zurich during our last international trip in 2015. I didn’t expect her to remember the opera, but I did hope that she might recognize some of the music. She did enjoy the music, but the overall experience was not what I had hoped. She was very confused about what was going on. During the first intermission, she wanted me to explain it to her. It was simply too complex for her to grasp.

This was a good illustration of the fact that the intuitive” part of her mind still values “rational” thinking. I had wanted her to focus on the music which I knew she could enjoy and not worry about the plot and precisely what was going on. This is not something that is new at all. That is what is behind her efforts to know people’s names, where she is, and what they are saying on the news. It is easier for me to let go and let her enjoy life through her intuitive abilities than it is for her. Situations like this are good reminders to me that there is an intersection of the rational and intuitive processes.

After the opera, Betty wanted to take us to get ice cream. When we entered the shop, there were only a couple of open tables. I took Kate to one and asked her to stay with the table while we ordered. While we were in line she left the table and approached us. She never went back to the table. I’m not sure whether it was a result of confusion over what I had asked or that she felt more secure being near us. I think she was confused. I do know that she frequently is confused by almost any instruction she is given.

Similarly, at dinner I asked her to take one of two tables while I went to the counter to order. She wanted to go with me. When we walked to the counter, she wanted to go to a table. This is also a common occurrence. At one moment she wants one thing. The next she wants something else.

As I mentioned in a recent post, she is beginning to have trouble with words in her speech. Last night as we left dinner, I played a CD in the car. She said, “They wear this a lot.” I said, “What?” She said, “This song. They put it on a lot.”

Despite these things, we had a very nice day. Being with Betty was also good for both of us. She is 90 and quite fit and very active. She is also a big talker and speaks quickly. She also walks quickly. It was a good finish to a week of social and musical experiences.

Another Christmas Celebration

The Christmas season has always been special for Kate and me. This year is no exception. Kate, of course, can’t have the same perspective. She doesn’t recognize it as a season, but that doesn’t take away from her pleasure. She enjoys each individual experience even if she can’t recognize and remember that it is the Christmas season. I know that we may not be able to enjoy the season in the same way next year, so I am savoring every moment and trying to make each one special.

We attended our first Christmas event the last of November with a luncheon with the seniors at our church. Since returning from Texas, we have played a lot of Christmas music and watched quite a number of Christmas concerts on YouTube. In addition, a good bit of the music I play at home is music of the season. Last Thursday at opera night at Casa Bella, one part of the program featured Christmas music. We were back at Casa Bella on Monday night for their annual Christmas dinner that also included a program of music. We will attend jazz night tonight. I am sure we will hear more of the same music in a different style.

Everything we have experienced until last night has involved traditional music. We joined friends at the Flat Rock Playhouse in North Carolina for a Christmas program featuring Asleep at the Wheel. Quite honestly, I had never heard of the group until a couple of months ago when a couple we met at Broadway night told us about them. Knowing that Kate is from Texas, they thought it would be something they would enjoy. I was hesitant but accepted their invitation thinking that Kate might like it and that it would be a good social occasion for both of us. I am glad I did.

For those of you who, like me, haven’t known about this band before, I should let you know that they are an Austin, Texas, band that has been around since 1970. Ironically, they started in West Virginia. They have won 10 Grammy awards over that time and have had quite a number of big hits and albums. Like all the other groups of that age, they have only one of the original members with them, their lead singer. The other members are all on the young side. That adds a good bit of vitality and quality to their performance, but it is still a classic Texas-style band. Even when they play traditional Christmas music, it has a Texas flavor.

Given that description, you might expect that it is not my kind of music, and I would say that it isn’t the kind of music that I would play at home. On the other hand, Kate and I loved it. We found the group to be very likeable personally and the rhythm of the music engaging. I found myself tapping my feet throughout the performance. Every time I looked at Kate, she was smiling. It was a good night to let your hair down and enjoy the season.

This will go down as a unique Christmas event for us and an interesting complement to the other seasonal events we are enjoying. It was also another reminder of the power of music to stir one’s emotions. The night before we had watched a memorial service with Itzhak Perlman and the Pittsburgh Symphony. They were honoring the memory of those killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue. It was a moving performance. The emotions aroused by that concert were quite a contrast with those we experienced last night. No wonder music has such impact. It has the ability to stir so many different feelings. It has touched our lives in many ways, and I expect it to do so in the future.

It began with a scream and ended with music.

About 4:30 yesterday morning, I was awakened with a loud scream. Kate had a bad dream. She was unable to tell me about it but was very frightened. This was a time to comfort her. I held her and told her she was all right, that she was safe and that I would take care of her. She calmed down and dosed off within fifteen minutes.

This was not the first time she has had a bad dream. Fortunately, they don’t happen often. Most of the dreams I have been aware of have been good ones. Until the past couple of years, she would talk while dreaming. They were always in a situation in which she was teaching children. I could easily see this as an outgrowth of her years as a school teacher and librarian/media specialist.

I stayed in bed until 5:10. I decided to let Kate sleep. She had responded so well to Valorie’s getting her up, showered and dressed last week that I felt comfortable letting her take care of her again. Before leaving, I told Kate I was going and that Valorie would take care of things. She seemed perfectly comfortable with that, and I left feeling good.

When I returned later in the afternoon, Valorie and Kate were in the family room having a serious conversation. They were talking about students and teaching. At least Kate was. Valorie appeared to be listening. I was pleased to see they were getting along well. They were talking as two friends might do. I am still surprised, but glad, that Kate is willing to let her help with her shower and getting dressed.

We ended the day with an annual Christmas dinner with music at Casa Bella. It was a wonderful evening. The meal was outstanding, and the conversation lively although it was hard for Kate to keep up. She couldn’t hear or understand much of what was being said. She frequently asked me to tell her what people had said. As I have been doing lately, I cut her meat (a very tender beef tenderloin) for her. That is something new within the past couple of weeks.

This was another bitter sweet occasion for me. I can’t predict the future, but I know that next Christmas will be very different from this one. I am glad that it went well. Kate and I both loved the music, and we ended the evening singing Christmas carols. We don’t know most of the sixty or guests who were there, but we are accustomed to seeing them for these musical nights throughout the year. It was a beautiful shared experience for everyone.