For a year or two after my love “went in” to residential care, he was very clear that he know who i was and even, sometimes, why we were not together anymore.
Once he carefully and sternly announced, “I don’t mind it here. I will stay, so long, so long,” he emphasized, “as you visit every day.”
Of course he had no choice anyway, part of my pain and guilt, but that’s a different story. He was unable to figure out the keypad lock, although once he brightly remarked, “oh so that’s how you do it.” But then the information disappeared because he can’t transfer from short to long term memory. And these days he can’t access long term.memory either.
Soon i tried to visit less often for my own mental heath, until it became clear that the care was patchy, and my heart had holes.
As time went on, he would look and touch me, and ask, Is that you? Then, reassured, he would laugh and we would kiss and hug, while he tried to figure out where we could spend the night. Under a bush? in the lounge? perhaps camping in the garden? maybe break into the linen room? were some of the alternatives offered.
But personal identities were getting sketchy. The care aides said when he confused them with me they let him, because it made it easier to look after him. They hoped i didn’t mind, and i didn’t.
I remember one day he turned the wrong way and hurried down the hall after a black-haired aide,calling my name in a demanding panic.
He had by then forgotten the names of his wife and his children and all his brothers and sisters, all carefully counted on the fingers every morning, sometimes twice a day, for years and years after diagnosis, his insurance against losing what mattered most. They were who he loved and he did not want to lose them.
And now he has almost lost me. He likes me well enough that I can (usually) bring a joyous smile to his face but my name was lost months ago.
Now he mostly has no idea why this friendly woman comes into his life. He doesn’t know it is every day, because time is also lost. Oh he doesn’t mind, and sometimes still touches my face and tells me i am beautiful.
Yesterday it took a little while for him to focus on me, but when i asked, Can I have a hug? his arms came around me, we kissed.
To my surprise, amid a confusion of words, I heard “stay a hundred years” and i knew it was his old refrain, the old love spell, “I wish we could stay together like this for a hundred years.”
And i knew he knew it was me.