‘Try to remember and if you remember then follow.’

Peter held up handful of baby carrots. “These are cold,” he said.

“You just took them out of the fridge.”

“Yes…but…feel them.”

Uh oh, the fridge was playing tricks again. Sometimes the crisper drawer turns its contents into veggie popsicles. “Here, I’ll put them in the sun on the windowsill,” I said.

Peter carried on making his lunch which never varies: beef or pastrami sandwich with splotches of Coleman’s mustard and margarine, plus a few carrots, a pile of crisps, and any fruit I sneak onto his plate. He reached into the bag of carrots. “These are cold,” he said.

“Yes, look, some are thawing.” I pointed to the cup sitting in the sun.

“What would I do without you to keep me straight?” he said, shaking his head and laughing.

“I guess you’d be eating a lot of frozen carrots,” I said.

As a learn-by-doing caregiver, I try to make my husband continue to do whatever he can. If I were to let him slide, his downward progression would be much faster I believe. Friends are amazed that he still walks the dog — “Nobby walks me twice a day,” he says — and that he  mows the grass, also twice a day sometimes. And he continue to pick up sticks and comb the rugs’ fringe with whatever implement he can find.

Yesterday I caught him using an antique silver meat fork for the job. Not only was it too hefty for the aging fringe, I didn’t like the idea of using a pretty old fork on a rug. I yelped. He stormed off. I immediately felt guilty. He was back within minutes to ask if I needed any help.

“Why don’t you walk Nobby?”

“He walks me twice a day.”

“I know. He’s ready to take you right now.” The dog flopped his tail hopefully.

“Oh, wait, you could get fish while you’re out,” I said. I’d written down what I wanted from the fish ladies.

“Where are they now?” he asked.

“Across from the rugby field…”

“Right, I remember. What do you want again?

“It’s on that paper. Take it with you.”

“Don’t worry, I will. Where are…?”

“Across from the rugby field.”

“Right.” Nobby led Peter out of the house. The door slammed.

I sat down in front of the computer. I had a few minutes to write! The door slammed again. I heard Peter behind me. “Across from the rugby field,” I said without waiting to hear the question. He chuckled. The door slammed.

Keeping my cool is nearly impossible sometimes, but when I think how frustrating it must be for him to try to remember simple instructions, I simmer down.


Carrots thaw, Peter mows, and in his right hand, he holds a bunch of sticks.

Header photo: Carrots in the sunshine.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

5 thoughts on “‘Try to remember and if you remember then follow.’

  1. You are doing such a great job of caring for Peter, much of it based on intuition though I know you have done a lot of research on dementia. Not only would Peter be sliding downward more quickly without his “chores ” that help keep him on his toes, he wouldn’t be nearly as happy. All of us need a sense of purpose and accomplishment and he is a contributing member of the family. None of us has been trained as a caregiver so we make it up as we go in response to how our loved one responds. And we are always learning and erring and correcting as we go. What works today may not work at a later time providing plenty of opportunities for revising, making it up as we go.
    BTW, time for us to get together over coffee!

  2. I have no idea why, this one made me laugh out loud!! I can just see you…giggle giggle…trying to write…hee hee…across from the rugby field…giggle giggle…you are rocking this Mom. I so agree with Karolyn, you are keeping him going and motivated and as strong as he can be. And you have all of us behind you and backing you and supporting you. Keep on doing what you’re doing because nobody wears strong as you!!

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