Living With Alzheimer’s, Five

Living With Alzheimer’s

Human mortality comes home to different people in different ways. On December 27th, around 3:30 a.m., a friend got up to go to the bathroom. It was dark. She didn’t turn on the lights. The bathroom is located at the head of the stairs.

Whether it was a yell as she was falling, or the sound of the fall itself that woke her husband, no one will ever know. He doesn’t recall hearing any sound at all. He just knows he woke up, and found her lying on the lower stairs.

In the first 48 hours she was in hospital, she was heavily sedated. It was known she had several broken bones, including one located under the base of her scull. It was not known whether there was brain injury or not. She didn’t speak, and she barely moved. On the third day, she was moved to the ICU in Victoria.

When I spoke with her husband during the first two days, his voice was thin and tight, like a stretched elastic band. He said several times how empty the house felt. He said he felt disjointed, and he was terribly tired. He had a hard time completing his thoughts. He didn’t know what to expect.

Happily, the ‘not knowing’ has been resolved. In Victoria, my friend ‘came to’. She started talking, and soon doctors there had her up out of bed. She remembers absolutely nothing about the fall. She will be in hospital for a while yet, and she’ll have to wear a neck brace for some months, but she will mend. The relief in her husband’s voice when he called to tell me the good news was electric, and catching.

The incident has brought home to me, once again, how fragile and fleeting life can be. In an instant, the lives of individuals and families can be forever changed. And so, as the holiday season comes to a close, I am thankful Bill and I have been fortunate enough to have had our family here. It’s been busy, sometimes hectic, but fun and heartwarming. With all the changes having many family members living with us for several days brings, Bill has been more confused in some ways than usual. In other ways though, he has enjoyed so many things that are crystal clear in his mind.

Laughing at two three-year-olds’ (and one puppy’s) outrageous antics; quiet half hours with little girls snuggled up tight to his sides while he read them stories; the puppy licking his chin and cheeks and falling asleep in his lap while he napped himself; walks with the dog; skating and swimming with the kids; recounting stories with our adult grandchildren and children and sharing laughs with them — all of these times are bright and fresh in his mind and heart. And when they fade from his mind, they will remain in his heart. And the look on his face and the feeling of relief and satisfaction that he could enjoy these things will remain in mine.

The most precious moments of life are those we’re living right now. All the best to everyone in 2014.