Thursday, December 1, 2016

You Aren't Gail...

Last year, we were driving down I-5 around sunset, which can be a confusing time of day for Alzheimer's patients. Here's what transpired, as written a year ago:

We were chatting pleasantly about the weekend we had just spent with my mom, who was ailing at the time. We all thought she would bounce back from this one, too (but she didn't).

He suddenly became very quiet and pensive. He looked at me strangely, shyly. "You aren't Gail," he ventured. "You aren't Joanne..."

"No, I'm not," I replied, "Those are your sisters, honey. I'm your wife. We've been married for 45 years." I figured this juicy tidbit of information would serve two purposes:  One, to help him recognize this old lady as the sweet young thing he used to know; and, two, to help him realize how much time has passed.

"Oh, that's right. I was confused there for a second."

"What's my name?" I asked calmly.

"Christiane," he replied.

"That's correct," I smiled.

"Something's going on with my brain. Is that why you won't let me drive?" I was taken aback by this question.

"It isn't that I won't let you drive," I explained, "It's that I think it isn't a very good idea. Just now, you weren't too sure who I was."


"So do you think it's a good idea for you to drive?" I asked.

"No," he said sadly. And it is sad. Very sad. And he won't remember having had this discussion, and we'll have it again tomorrow. And the next day. And again. And again...

And here we are, a year and a half later. The driving doesn't come up as often, thankfully. But his pickup truck sits in the driveway, collecting dust. We should probably sell it, since it hasn't gone anywhere in such a long time. But that just seems so final. I don't have the heart for it.

I Want to Go Home

Back in July, I wrote about how my husband frequently wonders where his mom is. In case you missed that one, here's the link:  Where's Mom?

The question has increased in frequency and has been coupled with, "What happened to Dad?" I usually just say that he's gone, too. That he's with my husband's mom, and my mom, and my dad. Knowing that he'll be emotional at the news anyway, I try to spare him the details of his father's murder. Wouldn't you?

When my mom died last year, I admit that I was a little hurt by his lack of empathy for me. I'd be crying, he'd ask me what was wrong, I'd tell him, and he'd say, "Well, MY mom is gone, too!" At the time, I thought it was a bit unkind of him to dismiss my grief so readily in favor of his own, especially since his mom passed so long ago. But now I think I was wrong in my assessment and that my grief perhaps brought his grief forward.

At any rate, the past few days, he's been asking to go home.

"You are home, honey," I respond, "This is our home. We've lived here for 34 years." Bla, bla, bla, etc., etc.

"No, it isn't! I don't know what you're trying to pull! I want to go home to Redding and see Mom and Dad!" He's pacing, clearly upset, wringing his hands, confused, agitated.

"But your parents are both gone, and so are my parents." I explain as calmly as possible. And besides, we were just in Redding last month. But he doesn't remember that, of course.

"Well, I want to see my friends!" he insists. But the problem is that most of his friends don't live there anymore, either. They've spread out over the country. And the sad truth is that most of his best friends from his growing-up days -- his first girlfriend, his pals from Cub Scouts that he went through school with -- are, well, with our parents.

It's a sad situation. Try as I might, I can't make it better for him or for me. What a helpless feeling. I almost said hopeless. And sometimes it does seem that way, too.