after one has forgotten

We’ve had the most beautiful fall-like weather recently. Last week’s soupy combo of drenching humidity and 100-plus temps gave way to the drastically unseasonable upper seventies/low eighties a few days ago. Just in case we’re too dumb to boil water, the weather person assures us that it’s only temporary and the higher temps will return very soon.

Herm and I have taken to spending our evenings and mornings on the deck. It’s so peaceful out there. Two of our neighbors walked by a couple of evenings ago. They live at the other end of the cul-de-sac, where the circle curves around. It’s the house where reindeer wear white lights at Christmastime and a scarecrow wears a lopsided grin at Halloween. They’re about six or seven years younger than us, and they’re already coping with Alzheimer’s disease.

We watched as he gently held her hand and walked at a snail’s pace so she could keep up. Occasionally he stopped to give her time to…. to what? I don’t know, but she seemed to need it. Her head never moved, her eyes stared straight ahead, her expression was the picture of nothingness. I’m not sure she even knew he was holding her hand.

Her hair wasn’t styled just the way she used to do it, her clothes weren’t put together just right, but time and care had been given to her appearance. He looked so tired. I tried to imagine what it’s like to care for a spouse at the end of life? Certainly, it is different than caring for a parent, and caring for a parent is different than caring for a child. Different but similar but very different.

I’m not the one to speak to this. It’s not an experience in my arsenal. I only have questions and fears and empathy and admiration for those who still remember the love after the one they love has long forgotten. And then I thought, while it’s true that she may not know he holds her hand… he knows.

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