Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"That's My Wife!"

I visited with my family over Christmas and spent time with Dad.  He was able to be with the family almost all of Christmas Day.  My brother had signed Dad out of the nursing home for the day.  At times, he seemed to be engaged in what was happening around him.  Occasionally, I would catch him crying, which is the only real emotion he seems to have these days.  His tears are more like a welling-up of emotion and crying is his only way to release.  It's uncertain if the tears are of sadness or joy because Dad can't articulate how he feels.  Still, it was wonderful to have him with us.

It's interesting to see how Dad interacts with each person.  He appears to be intrigued by his great-grandson, Brennan.  Dad's eyes follow Brennan around a room until something else catches his attention.  When my sister, Kim, walked into the room and said hello to Dad, he mostly just looked at her and looked away, much in the same way a precocious house cat will look at you, blink, then look away.  However, when her son, John, walked into the room, Dad was quick to say, "Well, there's John-Boy", a nickname Dad has always called his namesake.  Kim lovingly shrugged it off.

Dad will call some of us by our names, but not all of us.  We've passed the point of asking Dad who people are.  When someone would come into Dad's room, Mom would quickly ask, "Who is this?" or "Do you know who this is?"  In the beginning, Dad would take a few seconds, look at my mother like she was insane, and then say our names.  Over time, Dad's response would become slower until it got to the point where Mom would ask "Who is this?" and Dad would either look at her as though he was annoyed or just completely ignore the question.  Dad got to the point where he was frustrated with all the questions Mom was asking him about who people are or who was in a photograph.  Trying to salvage his memory, Mom created a photobook of old and current photos, but Dad eventually pushed it away and no longer wanted to see it.  He either can't remember the names and faces, or perhaps doesn't want to try anymore.  It frustrates both he and Mom at the same time and for probably the same reasons.  Mom just wants to ensure Dad is not giving up.

While traveling for the holidays, I awoke from a dream that seemed so real, it took me a few minutes to realize where I was and what was happening.  In the dream, I was in a large room, like the waiting room in a train terminal like Union Station.  I was there to pick up Dad for some reason.  I found Dad in his wheelchair and we began to leave the station when a guy's tee shirt across the room caught my attention.  I ran across the terminal and grabbed the guy and told him he needed to come with me.  We walked back to where Dad was sitting and I looked at Dad and said, "Dad, look at his shirt.  Who is this?"  And Dad pointed at the color image on the yellow shirt, tears in his eyes, and very loudly said, "that's my wife!"  The image on the shirt was Mom's high school graduation photo.

"My wife" is how Dad refers to Mom now.  He doesn't speak her name anymore.  He always used to call her "Lo", short for Lois Ann.  But these days, when he doesn't see her, he may ask, "where's my wife?".  Or when prompted by therapists who the woman is sitting across the room, his response is "that's my wife", just like in my dream.

Mom may never hear Dad speak her name again.  Yet another thing Alzheimer's has taken from her.  It just keeps taking.  And taking.

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