The ground is no longer level for me to walk on, and the horizon is much too close.
When you live with someone battling Alzheimer’s disease, it’s a topsy-turvy adventure every day, and increasingly more often, a painful challenge. Breakfast conversation can consist of vivid memories of visiting the city of Colmar in the Alsace region of France and marveling at 15th century buildings, or the charming Cotswolds of England where the Roman Baths present a journey of almost 2,000 years back in time. It’s interesting that not only were my husband’s recollections of his own youth always sharp and clear in his mind, but total recall of the oldest sites around the world we have visited also are close to the surface.
Then, while sitting and chatting with my sister, who he has known as long as he has known me, after listening to her talk about her toddler granddaughter and the upcoming family gathering to celebrate the little sweetie’s second birthday, he asked my sister “So, do you have any children?”
That reminded me of the time I visited my father in the facility our family ultimately agreed was the best, well not the best, no, not the best, but the only choice once my father, a veteran of WWII, began reliving and actively re-enacting horrific memories during night terrors. There were children in the house. There really was no choice.
When my husband and I visited my father in his new “home,” he was combative, angry and depressed. The first thing he said was “There are no birds here.” When we joined him in the dining hall, I pointed out there were several blackbirds, probably crows, on the high wire outside the window. He shot me a piercing look, but said nothing. Evidently, he was thinking of songbirds. I reminded him there was a parrot in a cage on the first floor, but then remembered he was on the lockdown wing. Later, when we said our goodbyes, my father gave my husband an uncharacteristically warm hug, saying “Thank you for coming to see me — and thank you for bringing your wife.”
Just as memory becomes fluid and often elusive, emotions and behaviors can wildly swing from daybreak to the dreaded sundown syndrome, vacillating from combativeness, anger and depression, to hugging the kitten and smiling at me. There are medications for all the early symptoms, but bottom line, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and people do not recover from it. Every doctor we went to has told us both about that somber prediction.
My husband is now in a lockdown wing of his own, and he is not returning. And every time I visit, I get combative, angry and depressed.