PLEASE NOTE: Even though this blog is now dormant there are many useful, insightful posts. Scroll back from the end or forward from the beginning. Also, check out my writer's blog. Periodically I will add posts here if they provide additional information about living well with Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lie Down and Die or Hunker Down and Keep Living

"Lie Down and Die or Hunker Down and Keep Living." That is a saying that Gregory and I adopted early after his diagnosis with Alzheimer's some 11 years ago. Now it is time for me to renew that saying for myself as Gregory no longer has this fight. He is content. I hope he can continue to be so.

When I am with him at Lieberman, if I think about the man Gregory used to be as recently as last Christmas, or if I think about Gregory while I am at home and compare that to the man he used to be as recently as last Christmas, or if I spend too much time thinking about what our relationship had been like over most of the last 39 years, or if I by chance catch a photograph of our earlier days; I might as well stop writing this post and sob and scream and dash my body against the walls and  throw myself into bed depressed not to emerge for days or weeks, if ever.

Maybe some day I will be able to think more about Gregory and my past, and revel in the memories of our beautiful time together. But for now I need to focus on the here and now, as Gregory seems to be able to do, and enjoy our beautiful time together now, today, here and now.

It is not easy seeing him in his wheel chair: immobile, unable to toilet himself, unable to feed himself, now and then tremoring, needing to concentrate on how to get the water through a straw or bite a piece of sandwich, not being able to use words to share his thoughts, crying unexpectedly, so focused on some far off object or through that even I cannot get a response; all this surrounded by 70 to 100 year olds who are worst off than Gregory and sometimes in the midst of their cries and shouts and anger and confusion and shit smells and food messes clinging to the napkin tucked around their neck.

But what I am able to see, so this is what I focus on, is a community in which Gregory feels safe, loved, taken care of, provided for, having limited wants and needs. Gregory is past the point of clinging to fears, unnecessary expectations, the past or future, holding on to the need for "things."

What I am able to experience is how he brightens up when he sees me or a visitor, how he is able to smile and tell me he loves me, how he tells Pat, "You are beautiful." or Cheryl, "Oh, it is you!" or Jan, "Oh wonderful." or me when at dinner I told him I needed to talk to the Social Worker and that I would be right back, "Oh that would be lovely."

I look forward to his hugs and with some delay in sound his large smacks of a kiss on my cheek. We can hold hands for hours and watch "South Pacific" over and over again on the TV in his room. I can offer him a piece of chocolate or a cookie and he is delighted. I can take my leave telling him I will see him tomorrow and he will acknowledge with an, "OK."

For now this is all I need and I relish each moment because I know that even these minimal interactions will disappear. But what I can hold onto is our love for each other, maybe at a later date our memories, and to the knowledge that all of his needs are being beautifully taken care of by a huge team of people who care. While Gregory's illness has gotten worse, his situation has gotten better!

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