It is 3.35.
He comes slowly down the corridor, staggering a bit, hand held by the care aide, not distressed but not walking well, very distracted by all these new strange sights.
He is 5 minutes late for our 30 minute meeting twice a week. I am dancing on pins, wondering if i should bother the very kind folks at the front desk to phone back into the forbidden zone and ask? But there he is.
I come out to greet him and the care aide, facilitating, says, Oh look, here she is.
He says they left at 3.20. It takes a long while, and skill, to bring a severely handicapped guy through all these strange vistas he has never seen before, without triggering extreme fear.
As we go in to the visiting room, he has no idea who i am but i sound friendly and he takes my hand in his very very cold one.
We do stuff, and slowly his hands warm up. He happily sits (this sounds simple but involves a lot of suggestion, patting the seat, and him kind of roving around, finally asking, Sit here?) He looks and looks around the room we have been in many times before. More and more warily.
Now, my true love scared is a sight to beware — even now i myself am slightly apprehensive — so I hand him the pool table wooden triangle hoping for a distraction, and he askes, To eat?
I say, er,
No, and try to interest him in making noises with it. No go.
He gives it back, not interested (that’s my guy!) and struggles up. We wander the room holding hands (yes same old room we have been in before, but each time new to someone with no working memory).
After awhile, out of nowhere, he stops and stammers, “i really really l-l-l-l lea-rned you” and bends down, holding me, quickly to kiss my mouth through the mask. Astonished, I turn my head and he kisses my cheek. For those 30 seconds he was intent, and then it was all gone again.
Disappeared into the dementia fog.
But for a couple of seconds, there was a beautiful happy smile in his eyes.
And so in my heart for the days until we are allowed to meet again.