Our Weekend Trip to Nashville

Kate and I don’t travel much any more, but we did make an overnight trip to Nashville this past weekend. I have pretty much ruled out trips of anything more than a couple of days, so I’m glad to say that this one went well. We had a nice dinner at McCormick and Schmick’s after leaving the Davises. Kate turned in early while I watched the Texas Tech/Michigan State game.

When Kate woke up Sunday morning, she looked over at me at the desk where I was working on my laptop. I got up from my chair and walked toward her. She said, “Richard?” I said, “Yes, did you think I was someone else?” She said, “I was hoping it was you.” I said, “That must have been scary if you thought I might be someone else.” She said, “Not really scary, but . . .” She couldn’t think of the words to say what it was like, but she was definitely relieved to know it was me. This is just one more occasion when I try to imagine what it is like to wake up and not have any idea of where you are. Even though this happens to her at home, I feel sure there is a certain amount of comfort in being in “familiar” surroundings. Being in a hotel doesn’t offer that.

From there we went to brunch at Maggiano’s. When we checked in at the hostess stand, the managing partner was standing there. I don’t know what he said, but he and Kate got into a brief exchange in which each was kidding the other. I had a difficult time getting her away to follow the hostess to our table. It was one of those times that I pulled out one of my Alzheimer’s cards. Shortly after we were seated, the manager came to our table and thanked me. He said he had an aunt with dementia, and something Kate had said made him think she might as well.

Kate had brought a TCU magazine with her. He noticed that and said that he had worked in several restaurants in Texas. He and Kate connected once again. She enjoyed hearing him talk about her home state, especially since he had enjoyed his time there. Our server was very helpful with the menus that included both brunch and regular menu items. She was also very attentive. We were off to a good start. About mid-way through our meal, an assistant manager dropped by to check on us. We had a good conversation with her. When she left, she dropped a card for a free dessert. We took advantage of the offer and had an enormous piece of flowerless chocolate cake.

After eating, we were off to Ellen’s memory care facility. We had another good visit with her. We chatted for about an hour before turning to YouTube for music. This time we viewed segments from several Andre Rieu concerts. Once again, music played an important role in our visit. That is becoming more important as her ability to talk continues to decline though not too much since last time.

It was a successful trip. I will consider making Nashville an overnight trip in the future – at least as long as it works for Kate. Seeing friends in the afternoon, having a nice dinner that night, brunching at Maggiano’s, and visiting Ellen makes for a nice weekend.

A Nice Visit with Longtime Friends

Several of our longtime friends live in Nashville, and we have visited all of them periodically for many years. During the past six to eight months, we haven’t done as well. We have continued to see our friend Ellen who is in memory care there, but I have not been good about arranging visits with the others. I miss seeing them and need to make a serious effort to see them more during the rest of the year.

As a first start, I arranged for us to see Ann and Jeff Davis in connection with our regular visit to see Ellen. Because Kate has often slept so late, we have been getting to Nashville late in the day to see her. That puts us back in Knoxville later than I like. This time I decided to visit the Davises in the afternoon and stay overnight at a hotel. That way Kate can sleep late, and we will be able to see her earlier. So far that is working well.

Even though she can’t remember, I always tell Kate where we are going and who we will see. I did that the day before we left, the morning we left, and even in the car on the way. When we parked at their house, I said, “This is the Ann and Jeff Davis’s new house. She said, “Who are they again?” I explained a little about our history together and told her that she and Ann had been very close when they lived in Knoxville. She surprised me when she said, “She and I used to talk a lot about our daughters.” That was the first time in recent memory that I can remember her recalling something like that. She didn’t say anything more specific, but I remember they talked about their daughters who are the same age and attended the same schools during middle school and high school.

In advance of our visit, Ann and I had several email communications. She had asked advice about engaging in conversation with Kate. I gave her a few suggestions and explained how well she has been able to get along and that I expected it would be the same on this visit. We got off to a good start when Kate noticed the flowers planted around their house. Ann and Jeff had seen us coming up the walk and came out to greet us. Ann and Kate had a few minutes to connect as they talked about the flowers and trees at the back of the house.

As we walked inside, we took a tour of their new home. It wasn’t planned at all, but we divided up so that Ann took Kate and Jeff took me. I think that made for a good beginning. I believe that gave Kate a chance to reconnect with Ann before the four of us sat down to visit. Kate took great interest in their home. For the next two hours we sat on their sun porch and talked.

Some of the conversation was between Ann and Kate and some between Jeff and me. For the most part, however, it was the four of us. Kate was not especially talkative, but she was comfortable and participated without any problem. As in other conversations, Kate said things that are not correct. For example, Ann asked if we used our pool very much. Kate told her that she used it more than I. The truth is that neither of us has used in much in recent years and that I am the one who occasionally takes a swim. In fact, I have recently suggested that we use it more this summer. Each time I’ve mentioned it, she has balked. I don’t mean to suggest that Kate wasn’t telling the truth. She just can’t remember. In conversation, her imagination takes over.

We could have talked much longer, but I felt it was time for us to check into our hotel and have dinner. As soon as we closed the doors to our car, Kate said, “I like them.” Once again, I thought about Kate’s intuitive abilities. Kate and Ann had been very close friends. Kate can’t remember that, at least not very well, but her feelings for Ann were rekindled just by being together. I don’t think it relates to something special that Ann said to her. I think there was something Kate was able to pick up intuitively that made the difference. Once again, I am struck by the power of her intuitive thought. It has carried us a long way.

Social Engagement and Music

I have often expressed how fortunate Kate and I have been. We’ve not had to face some of the problems that others encounter. Social isolation is often a problem for couples living with Alzheimer’s. That has not been an issue for us. It is true that we don’t attend many events that keep us out past 9:00, but in other respects we still get around. I’ll never know if that has played a role in Kate’s doing so well. I do know it has helped us maintain the quality of our lives.

Wednesday night we had dinner with friends we originally met at Broadway night at Casa Bella. We’ve gotten together with them for dinner a number of times in recent months. Kate and I have enjoyed their company. We always have a good time.

Yesterday we had lunch with a church friend. He and Kate became friends when she was the church librarian. His wife died about four years ago. She had Alzheimer’s, and he has been very sensitive about our situation. He stays in touch by phone, but this was our first time to have a meal together. We talked about our getting together again and look forward to that.

It was Opera Night at Casa Bella last night, and we had an especially good time. A new couple joined our table, both church friends. The husband is a professor of voice at UT. The two singers were students of his, both working on their PhDs. There were a number of ties that made it an interesting evening. Our church friends also knew the couple we sit with. For many years, they had been neighbors. The music was also outstanding. Kate and I first heard the male singer when he was an undergraduate four or five years ago. It was amazing to see how much he has improved since that time. The soprano was someone we remembered having sung in our church choir several years ago.

I was pleased to see Kate insert herself into the conversation, but I felt she was just on the edge of doing it inappropriately. We had an active conversation. That can be difficult for her. She handled it well. We have come to know (at least recognize) many of the people who attend. As the crowd gathers, people “greet and meet” those already there. Some of them are aware of Kate’s Alzheimer’s and are especially attentive to her. I like that because large groups are challenging for her.

As we left, Kate was on a high. She loved every minute. As we talked about the evening on our drive home, she expressed how much she enjoyed herself. She said, “I’m so glad we enjoy the same things. It wouldn’t have been as much fun without you.” I told her I felt the same way. She mentioned how much we have in common and that we were “on the same wave length.” Then she said, “And what’s your name?” I told her. There was a pause in our conversation for a few minutes. Then she said, “I’m glad we came.” I knew immediately that she thought we were in Texas. I said, “Me too.”

When I turned into the driveway at our house, she said, “I like the place where we’re staying.” After we pulled into the garage, she commented on what a nice garage it was. Once inside, she needed me to guide her to our bedroom and bathroom, but I didn’t hear anything more that suggested she thought we were in Texas. That is becoming more common these days.

Our Trip to Nashville to See Ellen

Yesterday we paid a visit to see Ellen Seacrest, one of our longtime friends who lives in a memory care facility in Nashville. It is now three and a half years since she had stroke. It affected her mobility and her speech. For a while the speech improved, but it has been much worse since having a couple of seizures a year ago. During our last two visits we could only understand about 25% of what she said. Yesterday it was even less. For the first time, that may have had an impact on Kate’s response to her.

We met in the activities room. Kate noticed some jigsaw puzzles on a shelf and brought one to the table where we were sitting. She never opened it, but she never seemed as engaged in the conversation as she had been in the past. It also seemed like Ellen directed more of her comments to me. That could have made Kate feel less involved. On our next trip, I think I will make more of an effort to excuse myself for a few minutes and let them have some private time. I am sure Kate would take more initiative if I were not in the room.

After we were there about an hour, I brought out my iPad. Ellen was enthusiastic about viewing musical performances as we have done for the past eight months or so. Apart from her career as an ETV producer, Ellen directed her church choir for almost forty years. I selected videos of the Wartburg College Choir in Lincoln, Nebraska, thinking that might be of special interest. I was right. She loved it. What’s more, Kate did as well. They were seated side-by-side with eyes fixed on the iPad. It was hard for Ellen to express her feelings except by the expression on her face, but she did convey that she liked the pageantry of some of the videos. Several of them featured the choir’s entry as they marched down the center aisle to the choir loft. Several of the pieces were accompanied by a small orchestra. I don’t think she has been to church since her stroke, so it was an especially meaningful experience for her. I am glad we got to share it with her.

After we left, we went to dinner. I was reminded of how closely I need to watch Kate when we are out. We were seated near the restrooms, but I always walk her to the door and often open it for her. Then I wait near the door for her to come out. As usual, it took quite a while for her to finish. I noticed others who had entered and come out. I went to the door and pushed it open enough to see Kate was standing at a sink washing her hands. A woman and her daughter were at the sink beside her. I closed the door assuming she would be out shortly. The mother and daughter came out, but Kate didn’t. I went back to the door. This time I knocked and slowly opened it. Kate was walking to the door. I don’t know what happened, but she apparently didn’t remember where the door was. She thanked me and showed no sign that anything had happened. It reminded me of times when I have lost and found her. She was very calm.

When we got to our table, I showed her where she had been sitting. That seems a simple thing, but she never knows where to sit. She often doesn’t understand when I show her. As she started to sit down, she said, “Where is my husband?” I said, “Right here.” She looked at me and realized she hadn’t known I was the one ushering her from the bathroom to her seat.

After dinner, I was leading her to the exit when I got too far ahead. I looked back. She was about fifteen feet behind and looking for me. I walked back and led her out. She looked at me and said, “Where is my husband?” I looked at her, and she realized again that I was the one holding hand to the car.

In both of these instances, I was struck by two things. First, was the fact that she said “my husband.” She is far from completely forgetting that. It is simiar with my name. She still occasionally calls me Richard when she needs something. Most of the time she just says, “Hey.” (That reminds me that the sitter told me that on Friday, Kate asked, “Where is my daddy?”) Second, these were clear instances of a problem with her sight that relates to her Alzheimer’s and not to her cataract. We know that she can now see out of both eyes. When she misses things, it can’t be a problem with vision.

I sense that we are going through another transition when she wakes up. I’ve previously noted that she is often confused, but the past few days she has seemed more confused than usual. She hasn’t remembered my name or relationship. It is not unusual for her not to know that she is at home, but that has been more puzzling to her when I tell her. It’s like she is in a deeper fog than usual.

I am settling into telling her I am her husband if she asks about our relationship, but I am not intending to dispute her if she thinks I am her daddy. I just don’t want to create any unnecessary problems for her. She is still alert enough to recognize that she should know she is in her own house and that I am her husband. Sometimes it can be difficult to know exactly what to say.

A Rocky Start, But a Grand Finish

When I went in to wake Kate yesterday, I wasn’t sure what kind of day it would be. She opened her eyes as I approached the bed and gave me a very warm smile. It looked like a time when she knew me. I said good morning and told her I loved her. Then I said, “I hate to get you up. You look so comfortable.” Her face turned to sadness, and she said, “This isn’t easy.” I didn’t know what she meant and asked what was wrong. She hesitated and said, “It’s hard to put in words.” I encouraged her to help me understand. Then I said, “I want to help you.” She said, “What can you do?” I said, “I can be your friend and comfort you.” She said, “I like that,” but she didn’t say anything more. I let it go. I suggested she get up and take a shower. She accepted the suggestion and seemed all right for the balance of the day.

She periodically has these moments of worry or anxiety. When she says things like “This isn’t easy,” I can only wonder if she is talking about her Alzheimer’s. It always sounds like it, but I can’t be sure. I am confident that she no longer knows she has the disease; however, I know she recognizes her memory is gone. She sometimes expresses concern about it. More frequently, she says, “Don’t tell me more. I won’t remember it.” Sometimes she stops working her puzzles when she knows she is not thinking clearly. She says she is tired. Yesterday she had a similar experience with her “Big Sister” album. She can only process so much information. These moments are the hardest ones for me.

I am often amazed at how quickly she can forget. At lunch, she said, “What is your full name?” I said, “Richard Lee Creighton.” She said it and then tried to say it again and couldn’t. She asked me to say it again slowly. After I did, she said, “Now let me say it.” She said it twice, took a slight pause and said, “What is it again?” She had forgotten again in a split second. It’s like turning a light switch on and off.

I don’t know if she knew me as her husband earlier that morning, but I know she did when we returned home after getting haircuts. She wanted something to drink. I told her we had apple juice and water. She eagerly said, “Can I have apple juice?” I told her she could and added, “I only let my best girl friends have apple juice.” She quickly said, “I better be your only girlfriend. We’re married you know.” A quick response like this is not uncommon. I was playing a CD of A Chorus Line. I know that she enjoys the music, but I was surprised at her laughter at the lyrics of one of the songs. Apart from that I had no sense of her listening to the lyrics. I thought it was just the music she paid attention to. There are also moments when she does something that I don’t like. She will say, “I know that bothers you.” Then I say something like, “No, that’s just fine.” She follows that with “I know you’re just trying to be nice.” She is still insightful.

The highlight of the day for both of us was our weekly dinner at Bonefish Grill. As the host was showing us to our table, we passed someone I hadn’t seen in several years. He and my dad were good friends who met in a seniors’ writing class. Dad was 26 years his senior and he (like many others) took an interest in the fact that Dad seemed so much younger than his years. He introduced us to his lady friend and told us that she was moving from New York City to live with him. We chatted a few minutes. Then they invited us to join them. We accepted their invitation and had an interesting time catching up and learning about his new friend. They had been college sweethearts at the University of Illinois in the late 50s and early 60s. They had lost touch since college, and each had married other people. Their spouses had died, and he looked her up and found her. That was several months ago. Kate and I have traveled to New York quite a few times. That and the warmth of the couple enabled her to feel comfortable in participating in the conversation. We had a great evening together and talked about our getting together again when she makes her move in March. At one point while the two women were talking, I had an opportunity to ask my friend if I had told him about Kate’s Alzheimer’s. He said I had and told me that his friend is facing the same thing. It’s just one more reminder of how common this disease is. I plan to stay in touch with him.

It was a week ago yesterday that Kate had her cataract surgery. It is clearer to me that she is able to see more easily now. Her vision is far from perfect, but now I am reasonably sure it is the Alzheimer’s and not her actual vision that is the problem. Yesterday she picked up her “Big Sister” album. The cover photo had caught her as eye as she walked by it in the family room. She thought the picture of her brother was our son, but that is definitely related to her Alzheimer’s. As she leafed through the pages, she tried to read the text. In the past, she has just looked at the pictures. I feel good about our going ahead with her surgery. I am sure it will continue to have a payoff even as she declines further. Our son and his family are coming for a visit during their spring break. Her improved vision should enhance her experience with them. It is difficult enough to have lost memory, but to lose her ability to see could have made a major difference in her quality of life.

Relieving Confusion

Kate seems to be entering a new state of confusion. For months, I have noted that she sometimes forgets I am her husband. In the past few days she has more frequently asked if I am her daddy. I believe this represents a further step along the way to totally forgetting who I am.

It also requires me to think more carefully about telling her who I am. I believe when she asks, she really wants me to tell her the truth. I’m not going to correct her if she calls me “Daddy.” On the other hand, I will continue telling her the truth when she asks unless or until I see any harmful effects. Even though she is usually surprised to find out that we are married, she hasn’t seemed especially disturbed. Yesterday morning she even reacted positively. When I told her I was her husband, she had a funny look on her face. I asked if that bothered her. She said, “No, I like that. You’re a nice guy.” I intend to watch carefully for any change and make adjustments accordingly.

So far I have been encouraged by my ability to lead her out of confusion. This morning’s events are a good example. I didn’t see or hear her when she got up at 7:30 to go to the bathroom, but I heard her say, “Hey.” I found her in a hallway where she had just come out of the bathroom. She asked me what she should do. I wasn’t quite sure what to say. Except for her reliance on me to tell her what to do, she seemed much more alert than usual. It looked like it would be easy to have her take a shower and get dressed. The fact that it was so much earlier than she usually gets up made me think she should rest a little longer. I suggested she do so. When I pulled the covers over her, she said, “What do you want me to do now?” It didn’t sound like she was ready to go back to sleep. I decided to get her up for a shower.

She got up right away and wanted to know where to shower. I walked her to the bathroom. In keeping with her previous line of questions, she wanted me to tell her each step to take.

After her shower, she went back to bed and fell asleep. I got her up shortly after 11:00 so that she would be ready by the time the sitter arrived at noon. Since she was waking up from a sleep, I wasn’t surprised that she was just as confused as she had been earlier. I went to the family room and brought back the “Big Sister Album” Ken had made for her last spring. She took one look at the cover picture of her and her brother. She smiled and commented on the smiles of the two children. She loves that picture. She asked if that was a picture of her. I told her it was. She wanted to know who the boy was. I told her it was her brother Ken. Then I suggested we go to the family room, and I would show her pictures of her mother and father. She liked that.

As we looked through the pictures, she seemed to gain a better sense of who she is. She still had trouble remembering the people in the pictures, but she recognized some of them. As she did the last time we looked through it, she recognized her grandmother, calling her Nana. In contrast, she repeatedly asked me her parents’ names.

This experience and others like it have made think once again about rational and intuitive abilities. Looking at the pictures didn’t help her identify the people (rational ability); however, it did eliminate her confused feeling (intuitive ability). She seemed to have a sense of connection to her family that was calming. She is especially sensitive to the smiles in all the pictures. As we move from picture to picture she says things like, “Oh, look she’s smiling,” “She’s not smiling,” or “Look at his smile.” The smiles have a real impact on her and bring smiles to her face.

My original intent was to let the sitter take Kate to lunch, but I didn’t have Rotary and decided to go with them. That gave me an opportunity get a little better acquainted with her since this was her second time. I had the same good feeling about her that I had last week. Kate did as well. Before leaving, I put in a DVD of Fiddler on the Roof for them. When I returned they were watching.

Kate was tired and wanted to rest a while. When she got up, she wanted to know what she could do. I told her she could work puzzles on her iPad. She didn’t know what an iPad was. She forgot the name of the iPad quite a while ago and often doesn’t know what it does when she sees it. I got the iPad and gave it to her. She sat down and asked me where we were. I told her we were in Knoxville. She said, “Good. I thought we were in New York.” I said, “I thought you loved New York.” She said, “I do, but I like it here. We come here a lot.”

An hour later we left for dinner. Friends we met at Casa Bella had invited us to dinner at an Italian restaurant near their home. We’ve gotten together several other times and enjoyed being with them. We had a good meal and pleasant conversation. As usual, Kate handled herself quite well.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for her to follow conversations. A number of times she stopped one of us to explain something she missed or didn’t understand. I think the problem occurs with the shift of conversation from one person to the next. It’s just too fast for her.

I’ve noticed other things like that. Increasingly, she wants me to simplify things I tell her. It’s confusing to say, “Here are your clothes. Put on your top and pants.” When I do that she says, “Tell me one thing at a time.” When looking at photos, I might say, “Look at this picture of your daddy.” It takes her a while to locate her father even if my finger is on the picture. It’s as though she sees a vast array of stimuli and doesn’t know where to look.

From the time the sitter arrived until we went to bed, Kate didn’t show any unusual signs of confusion. I don’t mean that she didn’t experience any confusion. For example, she never knows where she is and usually doesn’t know my name or hers. What I mean is that she didn’t show any signs of being disturbed by her memory problems. I didn’t specifically ask, but I think she knew I was her husband. I know that sometime during the late afternoon or at dinner she mentioned our two children. Her day was highlighted by her “Big Sister Album” and having dinner with friends. It was a good day.

Valentine’s Day

Kate’s celebration of Valentine’s Day started late in the afternoon on Wednesday when a high school student and neighbor of ours delivered a dozen red roses to her. The young lady had called me several weeks ago to let me know she was selling roses as part of a fund-raiser at her school. When she arrived at our door, I invited her in to give them to Kate. I realized the likelihood that Kate would think the roses were from the girl but didn’t tell her otherwise. She responded with enthusiasm and appreciation for her thoughtfulness and gave her a big hug. After she left, Kate selected a spot in the family room where she put them. Yesterday morning she had long forgotten the girl and the flowers but she saw the roses on the table. I told her they were from me. I got the same enthusiastic response and hug, and she got to celebrate the same present twice.

She lived the whole day without recognizing that it was Valentine’s Day except in the moments when someone would mention it, but it was a day filled with nice moments. At lunch, our server took time to show us a picture of his three-year-old daughter dressed up for Valentine’s Day. He is from Romania where they celebrate “Name Day.” He explained that his daughter’s name is Valentina so Valentine’s Day is really special for her and her parents. Kate loves children and was delighted seeing his daughter’s photo. She wouldn’t remember, but we met the mother and daughter one other time when we had lunch there. As we were leaving, we walked by a table where two grandparents were celebrating the day with their new grandbaby. Kate had to stop and comment on her and how beautiful she was. We had a brief but pleasant conversation with them and then left for home.

At 2:00, Kate had a massage. I still don’t detect any sign that she thinks having a massage is special, but it seems to me that she must derive some immediate pleasure from it. There is always some turnover in the staff, but she has only had to change massage therapists once. We come often enough that the rest of the staff knows her and watches out for her. When I first started taking her, the staff let her walk out. When I arrived, I couldn’t find her. Then I saw her walking along the store fronts in the shopping center where the spa is located. After that I have made sure that all the staff is aware of her Alzheimer’s. I also take my laptop or iPad and walk a few doors down to Whole Foods where I wait. Then I go back about five minutes before she is ready. We’ve had no problems since.

We hadn’t been home long before a church friend stopped by to visit Kate. When Kate served as the volunteer church librarian, the two of them went out to lunch regularly. Her husband had Lewy Body Dementia, and she has been good about checking in on Kate since he died a few years ago. They visited for over an hour without a break in the conversation. I was in the kitchen and couldn’t hear what they were saying except when Kate called me in one time to help her answer a question and also when her friend was leaving. I heard enough to know that she was handling herself well. She can’t recall specific facts, but she can express her thoughts about education and children and many other things. This reminds me that even at times when she doesn’t know my name or that I am her husband, she does remember my personality. She regularly surprises me with the accuracy of her perceptions of me.

Last night we went to a Valentine’s dinner at Casa Bella. They didn’t have music this time, but we were seated at a table for four with the 94-year-old couple with whom we always sit on music nights. On those nights we have six or eight people at our table. That makes for a different kind of experience than last night. Larger numbers of people create more difficulty for Kate. Sitting with this couple we like so much was a real treat. They are both in remarkably good shape. He is the oldest living Hall of Fame basketball player at UT. I’ve always been impressed with his memory and learned last night he has a photographic memory.

We had a pleasant conversation throughout the dinner. Even Kate got into the act. The couple is aware of her Alzheimer’s. Even if they hadn’t been, they would have suspected something. A number of times she was unable to follow the conversation and asked questions that she should have known from what had been said previously. She also got wound up talking about her school experience. This is one of those occasions she didn’t stick to her feelings but communicated what she was reporting as fact. She reported things I knew didn’t happen or that she could not have remembered. She also interrupted the man several times to continue talking after he had started talking about something else. They are very understanding and no harm was done. It was a nice way to end Valentine’s day. I hope we’ll be able to enjoy their company for much longer. Since they are 94, and Kate is already in the late stages of her Alzheimer’s, the end may come sooner than I want. Like everything else, we will continue to enjoy these moments as we experience them and be grateful.

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.

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.

Music and Time with Friends

After returning from the museum yesterday, I decided to make dinner reservations at Casa Bella. I knew it was one of their Broadway nights and that they were having another performance of the music from Les Miserables. We had already seen it once, so I wanted to see if we could eat in the front room that is separated from the music. To my surprise, they told me that I had reservations for four people in the room with the music. At first, I started to decline. Then I thought it might be fun to go and take someone with us. We’d been to dinner with Angela and Marvin Green a couple of weeks ago and have talked with them about the music nights at Casa Bella several times. I called, and they were able to go with us.

Kate and I had a wonderful time. Both the conversation and music were “as good as it gets.” It was a lively audience. That meant it was noisier before the music started. That didn’t prevent our own lively conversation. I do think it was harder for Kate to understand what was being said, but she enjoyed herself as much as the rest of us. She was moved by the music and expressed her joy audibly though softly enough that only those seated close to her could hear.

It was a day that could have been an ordinary Thursday, but it turned out to be special. The visit to the museum and the dinner and music with good friends were the highlight. I make a point of this because so many of my recent posts have focused on Kate’s decline, and I like to communicate that we continue to enjoy life. I don’t mean to minimize the sadness that accompanies Kate’s Alzheimer’s, but the stimulation of getting out as much as we can makes a significant difference in how well we are able to adapt. It works.

After dropping the Greens off at their home last night, Kate said, “Are we legal?” I said, “Do you mean ‘Are we legally married?’” I told her we are, and she said, “Good.” Later, when we got in bed, she said, “I love you.” I said, “And, we’re legal.”