Through the plexiglass darkly.

Who would have thought six months ago that this blasted redoubtable pandemic would still have the whole world in its grip come August? When I hugged Peter goodbye that March Friday, who knew my almost daily visits would be reduced to FaceTime, chats through the fence surrounding the facility or, lately, peering at each other through a plexiglass shield?

Now residents’ families can schedule twenty minute visits outside, weather permitting, with their loved one, a recent change. The meetings take place in a secure area, one visitor at a time with no touching, eating or drinking permitted. As should be, the visitor must complete a questionnaire, have their temperature taken and wear a mask.

Brandi had already taken Peter to the shielded area when I arrived yesterday. His eyes popped and he did his “Oh, it’s you,” routine when I walked up. Right away he wanted to know why I had “that thing” on my face. “Because I have jam on my mouth,” I joked. He thought that was pretty funny.

Like the gloomy day, Peter was foggy, a bit more so than usual. It was hard to hear his raspy voice through the plexiglass and his ever more rambling comments made the visit difficult. He brightened, interested, when I told him I’d heard from friends in England. He remembered them, their home where we’d visited many times, and he laughed at the name of the village where they now live—Oxshott. For just that brief bit of conversation he was present, in the moment. I felt better for the glimpse of the old Peter.

When my time was up, he tried to find a crack in the plexiglass to put his hand through. Since we couldn’t hug each other I showed him how to hug himself—arms crossed over his chest, hands gripping his shoulders—while I did the same. He made silly faces, but his eyes were sad. Then, just as I stood to leave, he really looked at me. “Do you have everything you need?” he asked. His concern was apparent.

That tiny shard of clarity—wondering about my circumstances — so surprised me that it brought tears to my eyes. “I’m fine,” I said. My eyes continued to mist over as I walked to my car. It would take more than one cup of tea to make me right.

Header:  Peter’s photo-perfect smile even shines through plexiglass.

 

 

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Who is that masked woman?

I’ve only seen my husband in person four times since COVID-19 isolated us and those visits were through the fence that surrounds the facility where he lives. We can’t share a hug or hold hands, but at least I can see him, and he, me, although he pretends he doesn’t know me.

Leslie, Martin and I visited Peter recently, a visit arranged by a nurse who urged him outside. We chatted about 30 minutes until Les and Mart had to leave. I stayed longer and tried to answer his questions about the virus. He wants to know if it’s “fixed” yet.  Hard enough to explain the enormity of a pandemic to anyone at all, much less someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease. He repeats his questions over and over and I reply with the simplest explanations I can. That particular day he was clearly distressed. I tried to reassure him that he was safe where he was, while we on the outside of the fence must wear masks and be extra cautious because the virus is so contagious.

As I drove away he kept pace inside the fence with my car. I did the Queen Elizabeth wave to make him laugh, but I was fighting tears. Maybe he was too. It was my worst day since the day he was admitted more than two years ago. I don’t know why it was so difficult. Maybe it was seeing him so uncharacteristically sad.

When I visited the next week he seemed more his old self. I’d meant to take a photo of him during the other visits but stopped myself. Did I really want pictures of my husband behind bars? So this time I decided a “selfie” of the two of us would be fun. It wasn’t easy to stand six feet apart, factor in the length of my arm and still get both of us in the shot. He turned on his usual Peter smile—he’s such a ham—while I snapped several pictures.  When I showed him the results, again at distance, he wondered what “that thing” was on the side of the photo.

“That’s me silly,” I said. I tugged at the mask I’d had on the entire the time we’d been talking.

“Why are you wearing that?” he asked, laughing. I explained yet again.

Then he wanted to know why his head was so small in the picture. I didn’t try to explain perspective nor remind him of the six feet between us. When I pointed out that we’d been photo-bombed by the American flag, naturally that spurred questions about why the Union Jack wasn’t there too. “Because, the Fourth of July is coming up. That’s when we celebrate our independence from you lot,” I said. At least we were both laughing when I left that time.

 

Header photo: Peter’s happy “photo face” and my masked chin, neck and shoulder.

 

 

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

 

Is laughter quarantined too?

Laughter has been as scarce as toilet paper and hand sanitizer these recent months. There are glimmers of good news now and then, but the bad far outweighs the good. March 14 the facility where Peter has lived for two years closed its doors until further notice due to COVID-19.  “Further” has yet to be determined. Still, who am I to complain when tens of thousands of families will never see their loved ones again?

Oh, Peter and I have talked on the phone and FaceTimed. He always sounds quite jolly when we talk, but it isn’t difficult for me to get him going. I say something silly, he laughs and comes back with something sillier. We’ve been doing that for years. After we’ve talked, whoever facilitated the call—Haley, Brandi, Jordan—lets me know that he smiled the whole time. I appreciate them telling me. Smiles work wonders when reasons to laugh are so scarce.

Peter understands that there’s a serious health crisis, though it would be a stretch to think he understands what a pandemic is or the devastation it has wreaked around the world. His world is limited to the locked doors behind which he and 15 others live. He’s safe there.

When we FaceTimed last week, aided by Brandi, I happened to be sitting outside in the sun—sunlight destroys the virus, they say—and I didn’t have time to corral my flyaway hair. “Is that you?” Peter asked, frowning. He had her phone pressed close to his face the better to decide if the image on the screen was indeed the woman he married.

“I look different with all this white hair, don’t I?” I asked.

He hooted. “Oh, is that you?”

I nodded. “I look like my grandmother.”

“Well how old are you?” he wanted to know.

I sighed. “We’re both over the hill, Pete. I’m eighty-one, and you’re…”

“SIXTY!” he blurted.

“…Eighty-two.” My turn to laugh.

Thursday we visited through the garden fence, again with Brandi’s help. She made sure Peter was outside at one o’clock. He wasn’t quite sure about the masked woman standing near the gazebo. He walked toward me hesitantly. “It’s you!” he said finally.

Leslie and Martin arrived a bit later. We three stood in the sunshine, at distance from Peter, and chatted as if it were a normal day. Peter’s grasp of the virus’s severity is fleeting. “Is ‘it’ just here?” he asked circling his arms around. “How long will ‘it’ last?” he’d say every few seconds. Again and again we told him that the whole world is affected and that no one knows for how long. Each time he’d roll his eyes, shake his head and repeat, “‘Is it just here? How long will it last?”

He took some comfort when Martin told Peter he was safer inside than we were outside. Finally, I encouraged him to go see if there was a cup of tea in the dining room with his name on it. Certainly tea won’t cure this pandemic, but it can’t hurt.

Header photo: I forgot to take a photo of us at the fence, but Peter hasn’t changed much since this one was snapped two years ago when he was only 80.

 

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Do tell! Or not.

Experts in dementia circles advise that people afflicted with Alzheimer’s or other dementias shouldn’t be told about the virus that is ravaging the world.

As I often do, I went against advice.

The last time I was allowed to visit Peter, March 13, I gave him general information about coronavirus.  He listened intently, the way he always did when he understood I had something important I wanted to talk about. He always gets the message—my evil eye does the trick—that I want him to listen and not make jokes. If he can get away with it, he’ll always joke. He asked questions that told me he understood, at least right then, in that moment.

Before I left him that day, not knowing then that I wouldn’t see him for weeks, I stuck a reminder message on his bathroom mirror: Wash your hands with soap and water. “Why do I have to do that? he asked.

“Because of the virus I told you about,” I said. “Soap and hot water are the best way to keep from getting infected.” He nodded as if he understood. Later I thought of several better ways I could have phrased that.

He probably peeled the message off the mirror within an hour or a day. I believe it was better for him to have heard something about the pandemic than to hear nothing at all.

[Dry erase sticky-back tape, by the way, is available in office supply stores and on Amazon. I’ve used it often since Peter has been in memory care. It’s my way to get a message right in front of his eyes. I don’t know if it’s as effective as I’d like, but it makes me feel better.]

He’d asked questions that day and I answered with words I thought would make sense to him. And when, a few days later, we FaceTimed, thanks to Mark, Peter asked where I was. I thought he was asking why I wasn’t there, with him. But, no, he wanted to know where I was physically. I happened to be walking along the street so I scanned my surroundings to show him. But that wasn’t the answer. “She’s walking in town,” Mark explained

That’s all he wanted to know.

During a phone call several days later, I told him that the sports channels were playing previous years’ best sporting events because no sports were actually being played now. “You can watch them if you haven’t disconnected your television,” I said.

On the one hand it’s too bad the tv in the lounge never seems to be tuned to sports programs. Peter is only one person out of 15 others, most of whom take naps in front of “Golden Girls” reruns. He does have his own television, as do some others, but he  “turns his tv off” by unscrewing the cable connection and unplugging the power cord from the so-called locked outlet!  If soccer, rugby, tennis or golf is on the tube, Peter will watch it. Shouldn’t he be able to watch sports instead of “Golden Girls” in the lounge, where the tv is always on, if everyone else is asleep?

I came across the photo below recently. The activities crew sprayed a table in the dining area with shaving cream and asked residents to make designs in it or just enjoy the feel of the slippery soap. There were a lot of laughs while they mucked about and it smelled fantastic. In a way I’m glad Peter didn’t participate, because I can imagine he might have started tossing blobs of suds! Hm, maybe this should be routine, a way to make sure residents wash their hands thoroughly.

A fun way to wash hands, and it smells delightful.

I was able to talk to Peter on the phone today. He understood without me saying so that I hadn’t been to visit because I wasn’t allowed in. He asked about “this thing,” meaning the virus and, among other things, I told him that Prince Charles and England’s Prime Minister both have the virus.”Charles is safe in a castle in Scotland,” I told him.

“And where’s the Queen?”

“Tucked away in Windsor Castle,” I said. Then I explained that most countries have closed all but the most essential businesses. “But, get this,” I said, “the English were so upset that pubs and fish and chips shops were closed, so they made an exception.”

He laughed. “Gotta have a nice pint, right? Chippies? Can’t close them, can they?”

Header photo: A week before the facility closed to visitors, I walked into Peter’s room to see him sprawled, snoring, on his bed, apparently quite comfortable.

 

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

 

 

Keep calm, carry on and stay six feet apart.

Bad enough that the months since Christmas have been dreary, at least in our area. Bad enough that Peter was sick several times during that period with a combination of problems. Bad enough that laughs were scarce.  Bad enough that in these nearly three months I haven’t been able to write a single post.

All that is just too much oh woe, poor me, poor us when the COVID-19 virus has the entire world in its clutches.

The facility where Peter lives is closed to visitors now and I’ve isolated myself except for my morning walks and occasional visits with friends outside and six feet apart. Thanks to Mark, Peter’s companion, we were able to Face Time once before Mark, too, was barred from going to the facility, as were other companions. Peter has never liked to talk on the phone, so talking to me remotely while looking at my face was almost too much for him. “Where are you?” he asked again and again. I’ve talked to him on the phone once since, thanks to Brandy, one of the nurses. He laughed when I explained I couldn’t visit. I doubt he misses me except, perhaps, for my skill at making tea just the way he likes it.

As last month headed towards its once-every-four years extra day finale I came to believe that maybe we, Peter and I, had “had it good” for too long. His October hospitalization slowed him noticeably and he has remained that way ever since. The second and third episodes in January and early February, a combination of terrible cold and UTI, slowed him further. His behavior was extremely erratic,  his already dementia-confused state, far worse

All bad enough to cause my own brain to stall. My muse and I needed something to laugh about.

“Happy 81st,” I wrote in Peter’s birthday card.

I am not eighty-one!” he said, as I knew he would.

He was right though! He had not turned eighty-one — February 26 was his eighty-second birthday! I laughed at my mistake, but he didn’t. Actually, I’m the one who’ll soon be eighty-one and that’s no laughing  matter to me.

I’d fixed his favorite meal—sausages, mashed potatoes and kale—and it was apparent his appetite, at least, was just fine. He had seconds of everything, plus a big chunk of carrot cake. When he opened his presents from Leslie and Martin, two knit shirts, he tried to give me one. Out of sympathy that I was soon to be eighty-one, I wondered?  I gave him a large jigsaw puzzle of the world. It was for kids really, with large pieces and colorful graphics. When he worked on it he was able to summon up a long ago maths lesson with no problem. Even with the correct puzzle pieces in hand for given spaces, he often had them turned the wrong way ’round. When I told him to turn a piece 45 degrees, or 90, he knew exactly what I meant.

Several months prior to all this, Peter had, for the most part, stopped stripping his room while inventing creative ways to pack up his belongings. No more handkerchiefs jammed in the toothbrush case, no more socks hidden in puzzle boxes, no more pairs of trousers stuffed with all his shirts and underwear. A good thing.

The laundry service had delivered his clean clothes just before I arrived one day not too long ago. I opened his closet to put his things away. It was empty except for one shirt and a tennis ball on a hanger.  Laugh? Yes I did!

 

Header photo: Peter, 82 years and two days, works his birthday puzzle.

 

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

Sometimes the cure is the worst part of being sick.

To say that the past few months were slanted downhill is to compare one lighted candle to the raging fires in Australia. But even to presume that the goings on in my life, our lives, are more awful than lives of others dealing with dementia, or any tragedy, is ridiculous. I cringe when I hear myself whining to family or friends.

I look for laughs as I would look for salve for a burn.

Take the recent several weeks. Peter had a miserable cold for four or five days although he insisted, as he always does, that he felt fine. His rheumy red eyes, dripping nose (also red), and growly voice belied his words. He was way better the first Sunday in this stretch. It was a gorgeous day, more like early October than early January. When I suggested a walk he agreed readily. We strolled along the trails at the facility where he’s lived for nearly two years. He enjoyed being outside. Two days later a rumbling cough developed. A gargling hippo came to mind.

Although he didn’t have a fever, he had feverish symptoms—he wouldn’t eat, he wandered the halls, he stayed awake all night, slept all day, he was incontinent, he babbled, he went into other resident’s rooms and, in one instance, climbed into an occupied bed. Not funny to the occupant, I can imagine.

At the after-hours clinic he fell asleep in the waiting room. It was a long wait but according to Mark, he’d slept all that afternoon. Once in the clinic proper, he had to provide a urine specimen. Way easier said than done, especially when he did not want any help, thank you very much. I convinced him not to scoop water out of the sink or the toilet and I proved to him that the breast pocket zipper on his jacket was not the one he needed to unzip. You get the picture. We were both giggling by the time that was over.

No pneumonia, the PA said, and Peter was his usual English stiff-upper-lipped self for the blood draw. He looked as if he might fall asleep right on the table. Lab tests showed no UTI, often a culprit in such cases, but the off-the-chart glucose levels were troubling as was a raging white blood count.

My contrary husband has a history of refusing pills. The antibiotic prescribed, an enormous capsule, would be hard to swallow for a willing patient, but considerably worse for Peter who chewed rather than swallowed. The taste made him sick, of course. Not without reason the pharmacist’s notes suggested the patient take probiotics and/or yogurt for the course of treatment. Enough said!

Peter is back to his old self now, but with changes in place—a more accessible doctor, additional tests, a selection of liquids to try in attempt to keep him hydrated, among other things. Forcing liquids only makes him rebel, but he did like the no-sugar grapefruit drink and Gatorade I bought. At the end of the day there are only so many cups of tea I can force on my English husband whose mantra has always been “the time for tea is every hour on the hour.”

Header photo: Peter enjoyed the warm October-like day in January.

 

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

It must be said today.

Today’s post has festered in my brain for days. AWOL for weeks, I needed to reread the last post before I could begin this one. Ach, how could I have forgotten?

For almost six years I’ve written about my husband’s journey along dementia’s twisted paths. Nobby, his golden doodle, has been important to the story. The header on the November 16 post showed Nobby looking glum in a  big blue “cone of shame.” Now, sadly, Nobby is gone. Today would have been his twelfth birthday.

His death two weeks ago was not related to the benign lump I wrote about then. That was a good news day. But not long after Thanksgiving Nobby stopped eating, drank little. Without going into all the details, I’ll just say that after two trips to our veterinarian and a two-night stay, then a referral to the university’s vet school plus two more nights, I learned there was nothing to be done, not really. Palliative care with steroids was a temporary fix.

I made Peter a cup of tea then broke the news to him as gently as I could. “Nobby is very poorly,” I said, “he’s not doing well at all.” I fought tears. He took my hand and asked how old Nobby was. When I told him, he said, “That’s old for a big dog, isn’t it? Will I see him again?” I nodded.

And that was that. Peter had been watching tennis when I arrived. He turned back to the tv as if I hadn’t given him dire news. I was relieved and sad at the same time. Relieved he didn’t react badly, but sad that he hadn’t really remembered his seventieth birthday-present dog then, nor for several months prior. Better that he doesn’t remember, I told Carolynn who was torn. She agreed.

Leslie and Martin helped me bathe Nobby with waterless shampoo so that he would be clean for a last visit with Peter. The poor fella had lost weight, but he was still handsome. Peter didn’t really acknowledge him except to pet him a few times. He thought he was their Tillie who was smaller, shorthaired and who’d died eighteen months before.

Nobby was a very special dog who, for eight years, visited five different nursing homes on Wednesdays with Peter and his companion Bill. Anyone who ever met Nobby fell in love with his gentle demeanor, his kind eyes and his fluffy white coat. For the past two years nearly, his therapy dog visits were limited to the facility where Peter lives, with help from Mark, another stellar companion. The eyes of residents and staff alike lit up when Nobby arrived.

Nobby didn’t get the water dog genes.

Laughs have been scarce these past weeks, but I’ll always be able to laugh remembering how that dog, who supposedly was a “water dog” (golden retriever/standard poodle), was afraid to go in deeper than his knees. He would not— maybe could not—swim, and he didn’t like it when any of his “people” were in the river. I’ve often been asked if he was a good guard dog. No, I’d say, the only time he barks is when we’re in the water and then he’s as annoying as a pack of chihuahuas on a sugar high.

Like his master, Nobby didn’t like the river.

Header photo: Nobby chases after Peter, November, 2017.

 

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

A man and his dog.

After several years together dog owners and their dogs begin to look alike, so they say. They begin to act alike too, in my opinion. Take Peter, 81, and Nobby, his golden doodle, nearly 12.  Both are mischievous and have the inherent ability to make people laugh at their antics. Both would fetch sticks for hours if their years hadn’t slowed them.

The final week of October was a week I’d like to forget and one Peter forgot as it was happening.

Monday, Nobby had surgery to remove a suspicious lump from his left front leg. While he was anesthetized, the vet cleaned his teeth, too. When I picked him up, he was wobbly, confused and so ashamed of the blue cone around his head. It interfered with his food and water consumption, his ability to walk through doors easily and, worst of all, he couldn’t find the right spot outside, um, to mark his spot.

Tuesday, just as I was leaving for my own teeth-cleaning appointment, the phone rang. Peter had had a bad turn at lunch. He was disoriented, more confused than usual, incontinent and his temperature was 101.2°.  Would I come? Of course I would. Hindsight tells me a trip to the dentist’s office would have been a piece of cake and Peter likely would have chosen a root canal over what followed.

His temperature had spiked by the time I got to his room. His face was so red it was almost incandescent. “Can someone take his temp please?” I called out. Whoa, it was 104°! I put cold washcloths on his forehead while waiting for the doctor to return my call. I requested Tylenol from a nurse. Nunh uh, without doctor’s orders not even Tylenol can be given to a resident.

As is always the case, Peter said he wasn’t sick. He tried to bluff his way past my concern. He was as dazed and unsteady as Nobby was on Monday. I urged him to drink water, then steered him toward the bathroom. Like Nobby the night before, Peter didn’t know why he was in there, but at least he didn’t have to go out into a dark, drizzly night.

We went to the emergency room where he was seen quickly enough, though it was a five-hour ordeal. He was hooked-up, jabbed, poked and questioned. He tugged at his IV, tangled the blood pressure tubing and tried his best to get the pulse oximeter off his finger. He bellowed and cursed during one particularly sensitive probing. Later he erupted like a child when a nurse gave him Tylenol tabs and a cup of water. “Tastes awful,” he yelled, even as I cautioned against chewing. This was not the behavior of the mild mannered man I married. This was dementia talking.

Like Peter, Nobby refuses to swallow pills, even wrapped in Pill Pockets. He spits them out with such force they fly across the room.

With a presumed diagnosis of prostatitis, Peter was finally admitted and in a room by 9:15. A steady procession of nurses, students and doctors paraded in and out. He couldn’t answer any of their questions, still insisted he wasn’t sick, still babbled as if drunk. When one asked his full name, he slurred his words. “Whydoyawannaknow?” he asked. Did he know the date or where he was? I cringed. Hadn’t she read his chart? Didn’t she see that he has dementia and lives in a memory care unit? Finally, gritting my teeth, I said that he hadn’t been able to answer those questions for years.

Meanwhile, Nobby had been home alone for hours. Leslie went to him after work. When I got home, the dog, way peppier than the day before, wanted to play. I went to bed.

Wednesday, the doctor definitely ruled out a UTI, flu, pneumonia and several other possibilities, but had ordered blood and urine cultures. Peter was to stay another night. Leslie and Martin brought dinner to me and afterwards, she went to the hospital. He was his goofy self, she texted. He walked her to the elevator so many times, she finally shut the door to his room and told him firmly to stay there.

Peter the ghost.

Always a trickster.

Thursday, Peter was back to his old tricks. He hid in doorways and yelled boo at passing nurses. He joked and teased and wouldn’t give anyone a straight answer. He’d pulled his IV out and was so energetic that they turned off the “fall alarm” on his bed. When yet another nurse arrived, Peter said he wouldn’t answer any more questions. Still she tried. “What hobbies have you enjoyed, Mr. Clarke?” she asked.

He had an devilish look on his face when he pointed to me and said, “Her.” She blushed, I laughed and Peter turned as red as he’d been two days earlier.

By the time I got home, Nobby had discovered he could lick his sutures through the cone, and later still he figured out how to bend the cone for unobstructed access to those pesky stitches.

Friday, Nobby’s doctor called with good news. “The lump was benign!” she said. “I’ve never heard of it, I can’t pronounce it, but it’s something particular to poodles.”  Good news indeed. That evening, Peter was seen eating popcorn while glued to “The Queen” with Helen Mirren. Such was the week that was.

Header photo: Nobby looks good in blue.

 

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

 

Orange is the new faded blue.

Last January I vowed to spruce up Peter’s dreary grubby room. When he was admitted to memory care ten months earlier I did the best I could at the time, but knew I could do a lot better when I was less stressed and he was more settled. The look of his room was the last thing on his mind during those first unsettling weeks…months. And really, just coping was all either of us could manage for a long time.

Last week, I finally “spruced” aided capably by housekeeping and maintenance personnel.

An efficient young woman had already mopped the floor—even behind the furniture, mind you—wiped down doors, cleaned splotches off walls and washed windows and screens by the time I arrived. All she had left to clean was the bathroom. She held up the grimy blue bathroom wastebasket. “Do you want to keep this?” she asked with a shudder.

“No, it was here when he moved in,” I said.

“It’s gone!” she said.

Then two cheerful maintenance men, Smothers Brothers types, arrived to shuffle the furniture around. They approved my plan and the new dashes of color. “Needed a woman’s touch in here,” one said. I chuckled. The old look was this woman’s touch too, though lacking any appeal whatsoever. When they finished, I tidied Peter’s things and cleared the clutter, so pleased to make good on what I’d pledged to do so many months ago.

What an enormous difference the bright comforter, new Mickey Mouse poster and change to the furniture arrangement made. The orange paisley comforter replaced one I’d bought nearly 40 years ago for eighteen-year-old Leslie. That faded blue relic was way past saving.

I didn’t expect—and didn’t get—a reaction from Peter to the room’s new look when he and Mark returned from lunch. He never was one to notice little things I did around the house—husbands usually don’t—but I felt better for having accomplished my January goal.Sad to say, another goal dating from September remains unmet. I’d thought my plan to revive the gardens outside the area where Peter and 15 others live was a done deal. Flowering shrubs, evergreens, scented plants and bulbs were proposed for planting this autumn to head-start growth and be ready for springtime bloom. Unfortunately, that project is on hold until the new year, not because I didn’t fight for it as much as I dared.

Next time I visit I’ll take the tulip bulbs saved since Peter’s February birthday, Leslie and Martin’s gift to him. We’ll plant them in a big pot to brighten the view outside his window come March. There’s more than one way to get a head start on spring.

 

Header photo: Bright new look to Peter’s room.

 

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 

 

 

 

Random reasons to smile.

According to one of my daughters, my most recent post made her laugh and cry. Here, for Carolynn, are four reasons to smile.

One recent Sunday I didn’t feel well, thought I was catching a cold, so I didn’t visit Peter as usual. I felt guilty all day. Monday I was slightly better, but decided to stay away. Finally, Tuesday, I went to see him. We were having tea when one of the nurses stopped to tell me she’d brought her four-year-old granddaughter to work Sunday and Peter had entertained her all day. “He loves little children,” I said. “Bring her back again for a playdate.”

Pfftt, no need for Sunday’s guilt, he was fine without me.

Another day he teased a nurse who was working at the computer in the corridor. “Want my help?” he asked, acting as if he might touch something he shouldn’t.

She laughed. “You stay away from this. You help in other ways.”

“He loves to clean up the kitchen, wipe the tables,” I said, a hint that he wanted more to do.

“Yes he does, and he helps with residents too. Pushes their chairs, cheers them up when they’re down…he’s great.”

That’s my husband. He’s lucky to be a bit better off than many.

Earlier this week, I turned his music on. The throaty sound of Louie “Satchmo” Armstrong filled the room.  Peter began to sing along—badly—the way did when he blasted his thirties jazz in the basement right below my office. His carrying on always made me tear my hair and laugh at the same time.

And so it did again.

Just yesterday morning, Nobby and I were ready for our walk when I realized I hadn’t taken the garbage can to the curb and the truck was already next door. I got to the curb seconds before he rumbled to a stop. I waited there to roll the empty back to the house. When he finished dumping the garbage into the truck, he deftly used the lift arm to push the empty can right to where where I stood about ten feet away.

That random act of kindness has nothing to do with caregiving, dementia, my husband, guilt, doubts or tears. But it did make me smile.

Header photo: Peter and I at a garden party several years ago.

 

 

 

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist.