Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Surreal Return

I returned to Anaheim yesterday from a funeral trip to Northern California.  As I left the airport I was excited to stop by Gary's Memory Care facility to visit him after not seeing him for a few days. 

As I drove into the parking garage of the place, it seemed surreal to me.  My thoughts were confused.  How is it at 53 years old that I am driving into a Memory Care facility to visit my husband of 30 years?  My husband is also getting benefits from Hospice. Is this real?  As the all to reality of the situation came to me, I sucked it up and went upstairs.

I entered through the double doors which are set on an opener.  When you hit a button the door swing open and I walk through as if I am a Charlie's Angel making an entrance.  (Gotta have fun where I can!) The lobby was set up with lots of chairs facing the piano and the Assisted Living Residents were starting to sit down for a concert.  Then I noticed that some of the residents from Memory Care were also coming out to the concert.  No Gary.  So, I gained entrance into the unit and found him sitting quietly on the sofa watching a movie.

I had arranged to have his hair cut while I was gone and they did a nice job but did not trim his beard as requested.  His hair was combed differently.  "Let it go, Ada."  I tell myself this a lot for sanity sake.  Some things just aren't as important.

He seemed happy to see me.  Not happy like in the old days (before dementia) when he would have risen, given me a big kiss and asked how I am.  No, just a smile of recognition and an I-bend-down-to-catch-a-smooch kind of kiss.  I sat next to him and held his hand and caressed his arms.  He liked it.  I did, too.

I noticed that his fingernails needed trimming but I had not brought the trimmer so one of the caregivers found an emery board and I started to work.  Just filing someone's nails takes awhile....but I had nothing else to do.  He seemed to like the attention and the human touch.

He was dressed in his jeans and a yellow golf shirt.  A nice look that was more reminiscent of Gary. As I filed away, one finger at a time, I was thankful for the gift of having him alive.  I thought of the wife of the man just buried and grieved for her. 

During the filing session, Gary was served chocolate, soft serve ice cream.  He ate it on his own with a spoon and seemed to get it all in his mouth with no spills....until the last bite.  In recent months, he  has developed a movement when eating that slams his spoon or fork repeatedly on the plate or bowl, as if he is frustrated.  The last flick of the spoon sent ice cream all over the front of that yellow shirt. 

So, I walked him back to this room and changed his shirt.  These moments together might seem trivial to the casual reader but to me, each is precious. It was around 3:45 and I planned on staying with him through dinner and into the evening.  Those plans were changed when I received a text from home that our dog had a problem and had relieved herself all over the rugs.  I knew I would be carpet cleaning so I finished Gary's nails and said a quick but loving goodbye.  I was angry that once again, life is not allowing me what I feel I need with him. I considered possibly going back later in the evening.

After cleaning the carpets, I prepared a box to keep in my car for Gary's needs.  It has two different beard trimmers, fingernail clippers and a file.  That way, I can just do what I need when he needs it.  I did not go back for a second visit.

So, its 6:30 am and I was up earlier than normal.  I feel slightly melancholy but hopeful that tonight's visit will be better somehow.  I am not sure what I am expecting except for time with him.  My day will be full of university happenings and will keep my mind busy and off my personal situation. 

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