The day after i wrote the “Can I come?” post, when i was escorted, masked as always, into the room where I would help him with supper – always an adventure – he saw me and said first and clearly, “I want to come with you.” This happened.
And then we descended into words i could not understand , and trying to eat (him) and not spill too much food (me).
January 8th, 5 years ago is when our friend Debbie and I took him to the first care home for full time residence. Our hearts were breaking, but he was strangely calm, saying, I’ve been here before, recognizing the care home atmosphere whether from visiting my mom or his mom years before, or from the couple of respites he/we had at another local facility.
I haven’t written much since he/we moved to another home in the Valley. The atmosphere is different and my crazy protective fears have calmed. They went into overdrive after the pneumonia a year and a half ago, and I could never relax after that. Now, I do not feel I must phone every night, and when i do I usually get an accounting of his day from the care notes. Imagine!
I am allowed in to see him 3 times a week, which does not replace the ability to drop in and check his mood and care at random times, as i used to do, before Covid. It is probably, no, definitely, better for me. I know when i am going to see him, I know they will phone if something happens (because they have), and the rest of the time I can go about my own Covid-limited but enjoyable life.
But it is immensely more merciful than the months when i could only see him on video calls, which were, despite staff efforts, basically useless. He was usually in bed and not responsive anyway, of course, because TV screens stopped having meaning for him about 7 years ago.
May i never forget his unrestrained joy on our first during-Covid visit, just 6 months ago.
Now he does not walk so much, although not strapped in to his wheelchair. Now his talk is often bursts of song, incomprehensible like his words, where fragments make sense. One has to listen hard. The shards of mind throw up sense from time to time. Although, to be honest, he knows perfectly well when he wants more of a certain food or when i should shut up, and is very very clear about it. So it is a mix of mind-jumble and understanding, which makes it difficult to track!
I think he only recognizes me as someone he trusts, although he was calling to Debloris the other day. My voice seems to reach him, calm him, somehow. He will sometimes stop and listen and say What?
I know for sure he remembers nothing of his past, from his beloved family home or that family, to the rest of his life and the rest of his family.
He wrote “Going Away to Sea,” an account of his young days joining the Navy in the 1950s, for his grandkids, and to help him remember, but all that is gone.
Almost forty years of living and fighting and loving and grand adventuring together — all those details, gone.
What remains is still a beautiful smile I do anything to coax out, and a strange sense of humour — he tells stories all the time the rest of us don’t understand but which are obviously very funny.
What’s left is a caring person. “You’re hurting me.” “What, oh … sorry, are you ok?”
Wanting to share the minced stuff he gets for supper.
Wanting to share the napkin he tore from my hands in feverish hunger, then bit and chewed, to my horror, and then as i wrestled the rest away, generously, “Here, do you want some?”
At this bizarre 5-year anniversary, i am thankful he is still with me, but he is leaving, slowly stolen by this dreadful disease, and i know my painfully-loving task is to be there with him. That is what partners do.
But there’s no rush …. he is strong and from a long-lived family.
So I am going to have to find more things to entertain him.