Peter helps around the house…creatively. He can no long fix or build things like he used to, so he’s invented chores and ways to do them.
He scuffs at embryonic maple leaves and tiny pear blossom petals — they hitch rides inside attached to Nobby — off the family room rug with the edge of his shoe, then picks them up and carries them to the wastebasket. Using the hand vac would be quicker and do a better job, but he likes his shoe method.
After I’ve done my weekly run-through downstairs with the vacuum cleaner, Peter straightens the fringe on the rugs, sometimes with the dog’s wire brush, sometimes with a comb, once with my pastry fork! I don’t care whether the fringe is untangled or not, but the pastry fork is off limits!
My husband has an ongoing obsession with picking up the tiny twigs that snap off the trees. He mounds them into piles in the woods or crams them into an empty birdseed bucket that I dump when he’s not looking. He polishes the kitchen countertops until they gleam, but he doesn’t move appliances out of the way to do it. There’s no doubt where the coffeemaker, knife block, tea kettle, and mixer live because the unbuffed areas tell the story.
I’m usually up and out at least an hour before Peter is, but when I come back from my walk he’ll have “made the bed.” That is, his side of the bed is smoothed, pillows plumped, spread straightened. My side remains as it was when I crept out — strangled pillows, tossed quilt, crumpled sheets.
When I hang laundry out back, I often ask him to bring it in. He brings his jeans, his shirts, his socks. His excuse for not bringing my clothes, our sheets or our dishtowels is, “I didn’t know you wanted them!”
That excuse, and the novel bed-making, has ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder, fka Asperger Syndrome) written all over it. It’s nothing to do with dementia.
I’ve often said, my husband’s dementia is much easier for me to deal with than ASD. Neither can be “cured,” but ASD sometimes manifests as what I call “The Mt. Rushmore Effect” —stone-faced, remote, cold. And yet, the man I fell in love with all those years ago can be funnier, sweeter, and more charming than anyone I’ve ever met.
I’m sure Peter thinks his ASD is a non-issue since he’s lived with it successfully all his life; dementia, though, has foiled him and he does not go gently.
An excellent “Masterpiece Theater” series*, “Doc Martin”, makes both of us laugh no matter how many times we watch it. The Doc (Martin Clunes) is a highly intelligent surgeon who has a blood phobia and serious relationship issues with his patients, and with Louisa (Caroline Katz), the woman he tries to marry. Although sometimes cringe-inducing, the series is doubly funny to me, first, for its pure comedy, and second, because Doc Martin is my husband all over again. Peter doesn’t see himself, while I relate to Louisa’s devotion to and frustration with the man she adores.
* “Doc Martin” is also available on Netflix.
Header photo: All pictures, Middleton Place Gardens, North Carolina, 2011.