By Larry Peterson
My wife, Marty, has Alzheimer’s Disease, which can lead to the unexpected, like this essay. I did not plan on writing what follows but certain things, silly things, happened last night that I found myself still thinking about this morning. I thought this might provide some insight into the daily world of Alzheimer’s patients and their primary caregivers.
After dinner (by the way, I am turning into a pretty good cook) Marty asked me, “What time is my show on?”
Reflexively I asked her, “What show?” (I know she has no favorite show. I also know she has stepped into what I call ‘Uh-oh time.’ I call it this because these are the moments that can lead her to become quickly frustrated and agitated).
She looked at me and I could see her tensing up. Raising her voice a decibel or two, she said, “You know what show. Just tell me what time it comes on.”
Quickly I became a liar. I have become a guilt-free, therapeutic liar because, in my world, I have to survive. My realization is that without me she is alone and she can no longer survive on her own. “Sorry, sweetie, your show is not on tonight. There is a special about sharks, and you don’t care about sharks, do you?”
“You know I don’t like sharks. But that’s okay. I can watch the news, right?”
She headed to the sofa, sat down and picks up her puzzle book. She always was good at doing the anacrostics (I find them incredibly difficult) but now she more or less looks at the page, holding the pencil on it. The pencil never moves. Then she said, “Do I have to go to work tomorrow? I’m so tired. I really could use a day off.”
Two years ago I might have tried to explain to her that she does not have a job and has not worked in seven or eight years. However, with my Liar’s Hat still in place I answered, “You’re right. You do look tired. I think you need a day off too. Don’t worry, I’ll call in for you and tell them you’re sick.”
“You would do that for me? That’s’ so nice. I’m so glad I don’t have to get up and go in. Is today Sunday?”
Whew, a relief question. I could tell the truth. “No, it’s Wednesday.”
“Wednesday, are you sure?”
“Yes, it’s Wednesday.”
Things were quiet for a while. It was about 9 p.m. when I walked back to the bathroom. Suddenly I heard smashing and banging coming from the utility room off the kitchen. I headed in there and Marty had, in a matter of minutes, emptied the wall cabinet of all the plastic containers, glasses and cups and other things that were inside and stacked them all on the washer and dryer below. “Hey, hon, what are you doing?”
She looked at me and I could see she was agitated. “We have all this junk. We have to get rid of it. Why do we have all this junk? We have to throw it out.”
Immediately, I switched back to my Liar’s Hat. “Okay, when should we throw it all out?”
“I don’t know; maybe right now?”
“Well, it is kind of late. Maybe we can do it in the morning.”
“I don’t feel like putting it all back tonight.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll do it.”
“Oh, thanks. I’m too tired.”
There was one final question. She looked at me and asked, “We’re married, right?”
“Yes Marty, we are married.”
She got into bed about 9:30 and was asleep in about two minutes. I was mentally worn out but I looked at her and realized that the innocence of childhood has come back from an unknown place and once again embraced her. I also knew that when she awakes in the morning she will not remember anything of what has happened.
Since I do not “punch a clock” I have the joy of being able to attend daily Mass at 8 AM. Marty will wake up at about 7 AM, and she always asks me, “Are you going to church?”
I answer, “Yup.”
She will ask, “Will you take me with you?”
From 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
As a caregiver to a child of God, I have been blessed.
©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved