Sunday, August 28, 2016

He called me Gizmo!

May 30, 1985. 31 years ago. Gary and I met on my first day of work at Stoney Creek Resort.  I had graduated from college three weeks earlier, gone to Texas to visit my brother and a then current boyfriend.  I was supposed to start Graduate School on September 9.  I had been hired to sell Resort Memberships for the summer.  I had hoped to make enough money to pay my tuition for the first semester in the fall.

Instead, my life took a turn in a totally opposite direction.  After meeting my boss and getting a quick introduction to the job, I was asked to wait in the employee lounge for the top Salesperson and that I would spend the day job shadowing him.  He walked up to me and said, "Are you the new rep?"  I answered yes and he said those magical words, "Hello, I'm Gary Gerard.  Welcome to the team." 

Shortly thereafter, he asked me to dinner, we had already fallen in love and on July 7, I agree to marry him.  We set our wedding date on a Monday due to the resort work schedule.  September 9......graduate school did not happen for another 15 years.

During that time, we played on the lake, worked together and started a wonderful life.  At some point during that time he started calling me Gizmo.  It was a cute name that described the then young woman full of hopes and dreams.  In some ways, together, we never grew up.

Now, 31 years and many homes and jobs later, we live apart.  He has Fronto Temporal Degeneration and lives at a Memory Care unit.  He shows very little emotion these days and most of his language is a repeat of what he hears around him.

Today after church, I joined him in the dining room where he and the other residents were waiting for lunch to be served.  Peter, Paul and Mary's song "If I had a Hammer" was playing in the background and he was mouthing the words.  All the words.  I stood and watched for a while.  The next song came on and he did the same thing.  He was not repeating but singing along.  I gave me hope for a good day.

Sammie, one of the angels/caregivers, told me that he had been talkative at breakfast and had been very alert all day. I sat next to him and said, "Hi Garball! (a long standing nickname for him)" and  he promptly replied, "Hi Honey!"

Most of the conversation stopped there other than one word responses.  He seemed brighter and very alert today.  He continued to sing songs as they came on the radio and did this throughout lunch.

He overheard the angels giving the other residents there food choice.  Rather than rename them all, I merely asked him what he wanted to see if he would retain the information.  He answered, "Taco Salad".  He loved it and ate every bite.  Then, he ate a large slice of apple pie with whipped cream.

On Sunday afternoon, they often pull back the tables and chairs and "bowl" in the main lounge.  We moved next to the wall and watched the ambulatory folks bowls.  He put his arm around me and continued to rub my back.  He put his leg across my legs and was very comfortable.  At one point, he grabbed my hand and said, "Gizmo!" I looked into his eyes and he produced a huge smile with shining eyes. 

It took me a second to realize that he has not called me that in years.  Sammie walked by and asked what he had called me.  I told her it was an old nickname and she said, "I told you he was having a good day."

That smile only lasted for a few seconds but I thanked him for remembering and calling me that.  He responded, "Sure."

As I relished in the memory, the son of Effie came in to see his mom.  She was seated next to me and introduced me as the wife of one of her boyfriends in the house.  She winked at me.  I was amused as one never knows what will be heard at the "Happy Place".

I was reluctant to leave.  Would this be the last time he is this alert?  Should I stay until he fades?  I made the decision to leave. I kissed him goodbye and left as the Sunday afternoon Bible study began.  I knew he would participate at some level.

I stopped by the craft store and bought buttons for the coat of Martha.  She lost them and I thought it would be a nice gesture.  I will sew them when I go by tomorrow evening.

I keep running that special moment through my brain.  "Gizmo!"

I cherish the first time he called me that and I cherish today.  During 31 years, little "Gizmo" has grown, flourished and become a woman that can take care of him in his failing health.  She still has hopes and dreams...they are just different than they were pre-Gary.

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