Not remembering can be a good thing sometimes. My mother-in-law, Nicole is now in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. She doesn’t seem to remember very much now. I think she sees me as a familiar face, but she never calls me by name and I don’t know that she associates me as anyone different than the nurses who care for her. She said my husband’s name, Christopher,to me this last week, but when he was actually visiting her, she didn’t know him, and in fact asked when Christopher was coming. Looking back at my posts from August, I realize what a short time ago it was that she was calling me daily to talk to me about the death of her husband, or rather, to have me confirm again that Michael has died. Those conversations were coherent, although her memory was faulty and she seemed to be having delusions of people attempting to get into her room. Or were there other delusional residents actually trying to get into her room? It is hard to say.
Now, she usually can’t complete her thoughts, or if she does, she forgets what she says and repeats it again a few minutes later. Today, her thought was, “I have arthritis. It hurts.” She said this while stroking her hands and pointing to a part of her thumb.
It isn’t easy to actually hold a conversation at this point, but I do my best, so I said, “Oh, your hand hurts.”
She looked at me as if I didn’t know what I was saying. So I tried again, “Your hand hurts because of the arthritis.”
Something clicked this time, so she started stroking her hand and said again, “I hurt here.”
She also noticed that Steffi was carrying a box, “You have something,” she said smiling. She always smiles now. It is so nice to see her smile.
I’ve visited almost every day now for the last two weeks and every visit has been very pleasant. She hasn’t really been able to say much, and so most of her communication is in smiles, nods and other words of assent like “O.K.,” “That’s all right” or “I think so.”
Such a dramatic change from the person she has always been, and the person I’ve spent so many hours with in doctor’s offices over the past four years. That person was always complaining, always bitter about the past, always ready to find fault or tell me about the faults of her husband. That was the person who complained about fat people in the presence of the not -quite-skinny nurse. Yet, there were also moments of sweetness. Every once in a while she would urge me to pay myself money to buy a new dress from her account, or thank me for taking her places, or happy to see the children.
Now her memory of the past is gone, and there is peace in her face. God’s grace. Perhaps for her. Certainly for us.