As much as I try to find the positive in what we are going through with my spouse’s Alzheimer’s Disease, I do hit my lows.
This weekend, I decided to have a date with my husband. It had been a while since I took him out for dinner and I ached for his companionship outside of the facility. Looking handsome, clean-shaven, and smelling divine from the aftershave that his care manager dotingly applied, I was proud to pick him up and have him on my arm. Although confused, Ernie seemed happy to be joining me outside of his “home.” We went to one of our favorite restaurants (from the past) and sat in the garden in the evening sun amongst other couples. Like the others, we conversed and laughed and smiled — but in Ernie’s language that only he understood and I pretended to understand. At that instant, I knew how lucky I was to still have a moment like this with him! I ordered for us both and we sipped on a glass of wine together. Now and then, Ernie would play with his napkin and silverware or grab for the salt and pepper shaker not exactly sure of their purpose. But once our order arrived and I put his place setting where it belonged, he seemed to know exactly what to do. As the English gentleman that he had always been, he held his knife and fork the proper Europeon way and began to eat.
Toward the end of our “date,” I felt a deep sadness grow over me as I looked across the table. My handsome husband appeared so normal with his buttoned-down shirt, perfect posture, and rosy cheeks from the sunlight. He was laughing the same laugh and had the comparable inflections and energy as he tried to communicate with me. If no one could hear his confused word-salad language, who would know? For him, things were normal but for me, they were far from normal. I couldn’t help but think of the times we shared our day-to-day happenings at the dinner table and talked through current events and important issues. My Ernie was once intelligent, well-read and interesting. And although I might not have always agreed with his points in our discussions, I always respected his wisdom. Where did this all go? Ernie looked the same but was far from the same. I held back my tears and tried to stay in the moment with this fantasy I was now living.
At the end of our evening together, I took my happy guy back to Sunrise Senior Living and thanked him for the lovely evening. I kissed his cheek, appreciating the clean scent that I knew so well and said Good Night. Ernie happily wandered off to join his Sunrise family and I cried all the way home.