Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Wallet

A couple of years ago, my husband started fixating on his wallet. More specifically, he started fixating on the items in it. The minute we sit down somewhere, out it comes. He takes everything out of the credit card slots, places each item carefully on the table, asks me about each one, and says, "Where's my money? I don't have any money!"

I show him that he does indeed have some money in the back of the wallet. He takes the bills out, looks at them, carefully replaces them. I coax him into putting his wallet back in his pocket so it doesn't get misplaced. Outwardly, I'm as calm as can be. Inside, I'm freaking out and hyperventilating. I wonder why this bothers me so much. It's traumatic. It triggers something in me.

And then I remember. My dad used to do the same thing. It would drive my mom bananas as she tried to cope with caring for her man, who was slowly going away just as my husband is. He used to have exactly $5 in his wallet, and he counted it over and over, much to her dismay. I used to wonder why this bothered her so much. I get it now, Mom. I'm sorry I didn't understand then, but I most definitely do now.

Monday, March 27, 2017

I Get Off Work at 6

I just found this post that I never published. It's a little rough and from almost three years ago, when my husband was still driving (only in town) and was home alone while I was at the office (three days a week). We live less than a mile away:

He shows up at the office at 5 o'clock thinking I should be home by now. I explain that I don't get off at 5 o'clock. I have never gotten off at 5 since I started working at this job (25 years ago).

"Well, what time do you get off?" he asks impatiently.

"6 o'clock," I reply. (My hours are 9:30 a.m. - 6 p.m., with an hour for lunch.)

"6 o'clock? Who gets off at 6 o'clock?!" He leaves the building in a huff. As quickly as he arrived, he gets in his car and vanishes.

But he comes right back and parks in the parking lot, where I can see the vehicle. He comes in without saying anything, standing right inside the outer door, in my line of vision. He is obviously very impatient, shifting his weight from one foot to the other and back. He leaves without saying anything. It's a little creepy, to tell the truth.

I used to think this was passive-aggressive behavior. Maybe it is, but maybe he just misses me, wants me to be with him all the time, and doesn't understand why I'm not home at 5 like everybody else. Yes, I am aware that not everyone is home from work at 5. But, evidently, he doesn't remember that when he was working, it was a minor miracle if he was home before 7. I decide to leave work a few minutes early and arrive home at 6 p.m.

"What took you so long to get home?!" he demands, looking at his watch. [He still looks at his watch, but he could tell time back then.]

"I came home a few minutes early," I cheerfully respond.

"Early? It's 6 o'clock!"

"Yes. I get off at 6 o'clock. I left a few minutes early."

"Who gets off at 6 o'clock?!" he exclaims.

Reading that again, I marvel at how "normal" (comparatively speaking) our life was at the time, and how restricted it has become (more on that to follow). He never did remember my work hours, though, no matter how many times the conversation was repeated. Before I "retired," he wondered why I was still working, why I had to stay until the end of the work day, why we couldn't just go somewhere. Now that I'm retired, he wonders why I'm not at the office. I can't win.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Experimenting with Meditation

As we walk on the bluffs above the straits on this beautiful, sunny day, I decide to try an experiment in meditation for my husband. Meditation, we've been told, might help with the agitation an Alzheimer's patient frequently feels in the late afternoon. My objective is to help him quiet his mind by focusing on hearing.

I find an isolated bench in a peaceful spot on a small wooden footbridge overlooking the water. We sit down, and I ask him to close his eyes. I close mine.

"What do you hear?" I ask him.

"You," he replies, facing me with his eyes wide open.

I decide to try a different tack.

"All right," I venture, "I have my eyes closed. Please close your eyes. Are your eyes closed?"

"Yes," he responds. But his eyes are open.

"Please close your eyes so you can concentrate on hearing. I hear the waves on the shore. I hear a car in the distance. I hear birds singing. What do you hear?"

"Like that thing there," he responds. His eyes are open, and he's pointing to a screw sticking out of a board.

I am getting the idea that hearing is not what we need to concentrate on today.

"Okay, let's do something else. I feel the sun on my skin. It is warm. Do you feel that?"


"Do you feel anything else?" I ask, the cool breeze blowing the hair away from my face.

His hand finds its way to my leg as he sits closer to me. This is not exactly what I had in mind, but it will certainly do.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Where's Your Husband?

I'm standing at the stove, cooking dinner. It's been a fun afternoon, followed by some really spectacular sundowning by him and an outstanding meltdown by me. Dealing with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde can really take it out of a person, especially the day after daylight savings time starts. Everybody's body clock is off kilter, and it's a full moon. Just being "real."

"Where's your husband?" he asks while spreading his puzzle pieces in random fashion all over the kitchen table.

"He's here," I respond.

"Really? Where?"

"You're my husband," I explain, perhaps a little bit more flatly than I intended.

"Oh. Okay," he says with as little enthusiasm as I've heard in a long time.

Golly. Thanks...

Time for a Shower

Just over a year ago, I noticed that his hair didn't seem very clean after he had taken his shower. I started reminding him to use shampoo. A while after that, I noticed he wasn't using soap, either. So I started reminding him to use soap and shampoo. And I stood on the other side of the glass shower door to make sure he was doing that.

But soon I noticed that I was having to remind him to take a shower. And that he was just standing under the water, wetting down one side and then the other and then the first again, until I handed him the soap and placed shampoo in his hand. The shampoo sometimes was used to wash places you don't usually clean with shampoo, if you know what I mean.

So I decided it would be more efficient to kill two birds with one stone, especially since I was starting to have trouble convincing him to take a shower at all, much less regularly. I started showering with him.

Sometimes he stands with his arms out so I can make quick work of it with the soft shower puff and a nice body wash. Sometimes he doesn't know what I mean when I ask him to lift them. Most times I have to explain several different ways that he needs to get his hair wet so I can shampoo it. Then I must remind him to rinse the shampoo out. I reach around the shower door to get his towel so I can hand it to him. He sometimes leaves the shower area before I can grab mine.

If I'm not quick about getting out and drying off, he will have donned the underwear I've placed at the ready for him before I can remind him to use deodorant. I've decided not to worry about it too much. He's clean; that's what matters. Right?