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.




20 comments:

  1. You say, "thanks for listening." I say thanks for writing and sharing what you are going through. You are an incredibly strong and compassionate woman.

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    1. I appreciate your comment Sandra. I don't always feel strong, but the encouraging comments from my readers keeps me going. I also hope that by sharing my experiences, others going through something similar will know they are not alone.

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  2. Well Happy Birthday to Jim.
    I think your future comment is perfect. It lets the person asking down easily and keeps Jim off the hook. Smart.
    I kind of miss those Florida rocket launches. Was sorry when they shut down the shuttle. Enjoy the blast off. How nice they did it for his birthday.

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    1. The launch went off without a hitch! Kind of fun to stand on the beach with many others who wanted to view the launch. Everyone was in a good mood. The skies were clear so we had a great view. Loved the loud rumble that eventually followed.

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  3. What struggle! Adapting becomes a daily dance for both of you

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    1. Hi MaryAnn. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, many days it does feel like a dance. Darting to the left, sometimes the right, and just trying to keep up without stepping on toes!

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  4. '"Jim and I both retired from stressful careers. We made an agreement that once we retired we would no longer talk shop."'

    What an excellent response... well done. I think you are right to concentrate more on the present than the future. Taking it as it comes will be less stressful for you. I hope Jim had a good birthday.

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    1. Thanks Valerie. Jim and I enjoyed a lovely lunch at a local seafood restaurant. The rocket launch went off as planned, and it was a fine ending to to enjoyable day.

      I know there are many challenges ahead for both of us. I hope I have the grace and ability to help Jim through the next more difficult stages of his life.

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  5. Carole, I recently discovered your blog and truly enjoy your writing. The phrase "fragile reality" struck a chord with me--I feel the same, but under different circumstances. Many others probably can understand as well. I hope I too have the grace and ability to move on, your strength gives me hope and a lot to think about.

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    1. Hi Sue. Thanks for stopping by. It's helpful to share with each other; it means we are not alone. Some days I feel stronger than others. But I imagine that is typical, with good days and some not so good days. But we persevere, knowing that we are doing the best we can. Thanks for your comment.

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  6. I just got back from the local Women's March on Bellingham on solidarity with the one in D.C. The turnout was incredible! I'll be putting some pictures on my blog post today, but it was very inspiring. And happy birthday to Jim. You are a blessing to him as well as to me. :-)

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    1. Can't wait to see the pictures DJan! So glad you could participate in this very important march. I have two nieces who are in Washington right now. I am so proud of them! I am there in spirit, if not in person :-)

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  7. Wow! Only 68? I thought he was much older. Sad that dementia caught him when he is so young.

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    1. Yes, he is relatively young to have dementia. His mom was in her early 60's when she first showed signs. I'm just grateful that I am still healthy and young enough to still care for him. Many times when dementia strikes at a later age, the spouse has their own frailties that make it difficult to provide care.

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  8. Carole, I have recently started reading your blog. Your words stir both my memories and my heart.

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    1. Hi Savoring Sixty. It sounds like you too, have had a journey with dementia.

      Thanks for stopping by :-)

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  9. Given how your husband's situation is one which he is not openly aware of, I think your solution on how to handle encounters like you describe -- especially since he welcomed your suggestion -- is exactly the way to go. Even if he was consciously aware and readily acknowledged his condition, there's no reason why he would need to explain that to every person who contacted him.

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    1. I'm trying hard to be hyper alert to what is going on. I'm better at it somedays than others. This situation caught me off guard, but I'll be ready next time :-)

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  10. Carole, I love the fact that you are determined to enjoy the present with Jim as much as you can, rather than worrying about the future. That seems to me to be such a healthy and balanced response to this difficult situation. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Jude

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    1. Thanks Jude. One day at a time is a time-worn phase, but so true! I find I do better (for Jim and for myself) as long as I don't get too far ahead of myself.

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