Friday, January 20, 2017
Our Fragile Reality
The above photo is actually from last year. This moment was captured by my niece, who was visiting us with her husband. We were enjoying an evening sunset walk on the beach. The contrast between last year and this year is pretty dramatic. Last winter, Jim's difficulties were starting to show through to others. I remember awkward moments with my niece and her husband, as they witnessed Jim's low tolerance for anything even slightly frustrating. Jim's language skills were still pretty good, and only once in a while would he stumble with a search for the right word.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, the folks who live in our condo complex have been wonderfully kind and caring. Although Jim and I had an awkward moment earlier this week. One of the local residents (who apparently did not realize about Jim's dementia) stopped us on the walkway to ask Jim a clinical question. Apparently he had heard what Jim did for a living prior to retirement. He showed Jim a book he had in his hand and asked him if he could give his opinion on this particular clinical theory.
He said: "I don't need a thesis on this topic, but if you could summarize the basic tenants of this theory, and what your opinion is, I sure would appreciate it."
Oh my goodness. I panicked for a moment. Jim actually did OK. He said some very vague things, like "there is a lot written about that" and "lots of different opinions on it" etc.
I finally said: "well, they are waiting for us so we better get going now. Nice to see you again."
About 20 minutes later Jim had a total overreaction and upset to some minor incident. At first I didn't see the connection, but as I thought about it later, I am certain it was related to the stressful interaction that we had with our condo neighbor.
Jim and I both retired from professional careers. I'm not too keen about others knowing what we used to do for a living, because I'd rather people define and know us about who we are now, not based on what we used to do for a living.
I thought for a very long time about how I could have handled the situation better. I finally came up with a good response, and if anything like this occurs again, I'll be ready. I'll simply say:
"Jim and I both retired from stressful careers. We made an agreement that once we retired we would no longer talk shop."
I mentioned this to Jim, and he was visibly relieved. He obviously knew at some level that he could no longer keep up his end of a clinical discussion. Sometimes I wish I knew exactly what his self perception is.
There have been a few more instances where Jim has been confused about where we are, how long we are staying, and thinking that he drove his car here etc. It makes me realize how fragile our reality is. It is a very sobering thought. How will the next few years play out? I don't know, and maybe it is good that I don't know, at least at this point.
I'm determined more than ever to enjoy our life together now, today, in the present, future be damned.
Today is Jim's birthday, turning 68. There is a rocket launch scheduled for this evening, which we will watch from the beach in front of our condo. What a great way to celebrate!
Thanks for stopping by. My heart feels a little lighter each time a post and push the "publish" button. Thanks for listening.