We left home just before another snow storm was about to come our way. The drive was uneventful, weather wise, and traffic was not too bad. We were on the road about 8 hours a day, allowing for mostly daylight driving.
The days were punctuated with questions and comments like "how did we get here?" "Whose car is this?"
The second night of our trip was very challenging for Jim. He became quite irritated and frustrated over seemingly minor things. Around 9:00 PM he announced "I'm getting out of here and going home! It's not that far. I'm not staying here!" I somehow managed to plead with him to not leave me alone. I thought that this strategy would work better than any other, and I was right. He finally got into bed and we both fell asleep, quite exhausted from the stress.
In the morning (our final leg of the trip) he seemed OK, pretty calm. Once in the car, the following conversation ensued:
Jim: "How did our paths cross to end up here? Did you fly here?"
Me: "We left our home two days ago and are driving to FL for the winter."
Jim: "Our home? How long have I known you?"
Me: "We met 39 years ago, and have been married for 30 years."
Jim: (Very long pause) "I hate to tell you this, but I have never been married. I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but you must be confused. (Long pause) "I hope you are not upset about this."
Me: (Decided to try one more time, ever so gently. Pointed to my wedding rings.) "Remember these? Remember the picture on our piano of our wedding day?"
Jim: (Looking at the rings) "Oh, you're married. This will make things awkward. Do other people know that we are here together? Will people be upset by this?"
At this point it just made sense to let it go. He was not upset at all during this conversation, in fact he was very calm. For the rest of our drive that day he treated me differently, as if I were an acquaintance.
It was a glimpse into our future, knowing that someday he will likely not know who I am. It was profoundly sad.
By the time we arrived at our condo, he was still confused. As we unpacked the car, he pointed to a bin and said "what's in there?" I said "that is all of our financial information, our investments, banking information, and portfolio spreadsheets."
Jim: (Looking at me with one raised eyebrow and speaking calmly) "OUR investments?"
I just let it drop. But it still left me feeling so very alone, so incredibly sad. Part of the journey that is called the long goodbye.
We unpacked the car, got settled a bit and headed to the grocery store. Over this period of time, he started to come around. He asked more questions ("How did we meet?") and eventually seemed to be coming to the realization that we had a history together. At one point he said "Will you live with me?" I ran with this and replied "Well, we've been living together for over 30 years."
While standing in the checkout line (!) he popped the question very quietly "Will you marry me?" So bittersweet.
Throughout the following two days it was recovery mode for his memory of our history together. He was very calm, very curious, and indicating that he was starting to remember. At one point, he became very quiet and concerned that he had forgotten our past together. It was the first time he has ever acknowledged that he had any problems with memory loss.
I knew that the travel and the different environment would bring challenges. It is known that anything outside the routine can worsen confusion for folks with dementia. I didn't expect that the confusion would involve our relationship. Having our friends here has helped with Jim's orientation. As soon as he saw them, he was happy and glad to see them.
We have survived another dementia challenge. I believe I handled it the best I could, given the circumstances. We've only been here for a few days, but already we are settling into a very nice, quiet lifestyle. Waking up when we want. Walking down the beach after breakfast, connecting with friends poolside, enjoying the wonderful seafood FL has to offer. Jim is more relaxed than I have seen him in a very long time. We're enjoying each other and our time with our friends.
But, and it is a big but, I am on super high alert. More so than at home. I will not leave him alone, even for a few minutes. I'm not sure my system at home of leaving notes (where I am, when I will return, cell phone number) will work here. So, it is more "togetherness" than I want, but at this point it seems the right thing to do. I'll skip the pedicure, lunch with the girls, going to the gym (Jim not interested at all), because to do so would put him at great risk.
I never worry about him wandering off (he is fearful of getting lost), but I'm just not sure how he would react if left alone for any period of time. We'll see, as time passes and he feels more comfortable with our environment.
Once again, thank you dear readers for stopping by. Just typing these words helps me immensely, knowing that by blogosphere friends are listening.