A Caregiver Celebrates His Birthday

My birthday started out semi-badly. I searched the NY Times for any mention of me and there was none. (That’s a joke)
My spirits were improved by emails from my children saying happy birthday and not asking for money or advice.

So I went for a walk to the Dunkin Donuts about a mile away for a coffee and celebratory donut. The town where I live has a maze of walking paths set away from the streets and it is a quite beautiful way to get from place to place. I meet a few people walking their dogs, often Golden Retrievers because its that kind of town, but I do get a lot of time to think.

I’ve noticed how my wife has changed and how that change has affected me – even without my intent. As she sloughs off memory and ability, she loses some of that hard edge that often made her difficult as an adult. In some ways she has become almost child-like in her reactions and emotions.

She mirrors my behavior very quickly and, if I fix my behavior, she is easily mollified. If I am curt, she says that I am acting angry. If I go over and give her a soft hug and apologize, she is happy again.

In certain very basic things, doing dishes or washing clothes, she is still adept and does them well, albeit slowly. Other things, like making grocery lists or actually shopping or picking out favorite foods, she remembers that she did them and gets upset when she can’t actually continue.

In looking at my own feelings towards her, I have become what could be seen as nurturing. I like being home when she gets up so I know that she is all right. I am careful what I say so as not to alarm or upset her, I even plan our tv viewing so that she might understand and enjoy the programs.

We still have that adult interactions of laughing at other’s antics or those sly little wordless jokes that long married happy couples have. For that instant she as back together again. The best part of the day is when we are in bed and she is watching television and I can moved up against her and fall asleep like I always have – and for that few moments I forget that most of her is gone and I can take pleasure in what I have that is left.

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