One of the most shocking changes to Jim has been his dramatic loss lost of speech over a relatively short period of time. He still has an occasional word or two, and if there is a particularly charged moment, there may be several words. But for the most part he is very, very quiet.
Eight months ago I can remember his conversation with the police officer, angrily telling him that I had to go, that I did not belong in our home. Speaking clearly in full sentences. Communicating so clearly. Wow. So much has transpired since that time.
Fast forward to today. Jim is settled in his care home, surrounded with staff who love him and watch out for him when I cannot be there.
The best part of my day is when I arrive on the unit, go in search of him, and then watch for his expression when he first sees me. His face lights up, he smiles, and his eyes say it all. He holds out his arms to me and then when we meet we hug, and then we kiss, and all is well as I feel the tender touch of his arms around me.
Staff seem to delight in watching. I see them pause in what they are doing, turning their eyes toward Jim. Like me, they seem to be just waiting to see his face light up in recognition when I enter the unit.
Oh, how lucky I am. But at the same time it is bitter sweet as I know it won't last forever. That day will come when he may not know me or recognize me, or be able to respond in the way he does now. I don't know if I'll ever be ready for that day.
But I don't focus on those thoughts. Instead I treasure and memorize his smile, his eyes, his gentle touch as he sees me and holds me. I will carry that with me forever.
The nursing home organized an antique car show. It was held outside on the grounds, which are absolutely beautiful this time of year. I was a little nervous about Jim going. How would he react being outside his safe haven? Would he see the cars and want to drive one? Would it be too confusing or upsetting for him? My greatest concern was that somehow he would react in a way that would result in an upset for him.
But, at the same time I did not want to deprive him of a chance to see all these cars. He always was a car nut, and subscribed to a couple of car magazines. So, with Corrina on one of his arms and me on the other, we toured the grounds, stopping to look at each of these beautiful cars. At one point he pointed to a car and said "Studebaker!". I was shocked. Where did that come from? Then we passed a Chevelle and he said "I had one of those." And he did! Wow, just wow.
The other day when he was walking behind one of the speech therapists (who happens to be young and beautiful) he pointed to her and said "Smokin!" 😊
My observation is that when there is something or someone that elicits a very visceral response, this is when he is most likely to be able to produce some speech. I don't fully understand how this all works in the brain. As my friend Amy said "It's amazing how it's all in there, but just kinda stuck."
I'm feeling settled in my new place. Pictures and art work are actually hung on the walls. It really feels like home sweet home to me. Jim is here with me if not physically, certainly in spirit. So many things to help me still feel still so connected to him; the treasured photos, the pieces of art work we chose together, the furniture we picked out a few years ago, and of course the piano!
The story behind the piano is pretty darn sweet. I played quite well all the way through high school. Jim and I have always been big fans of classical music, and this is what I was trained to play. 30 years ago, about a week before Christmas he took a day off from work and unknown to me had a piano delivered to our house! He put it in the den, closed the door and put up a sign that said "Do Not Enter! Wrapping in Progress!" On Christmas morning we opened the door to the den, and there it was. A beautiful piano with a big red bow wrapped around it. In the piano bench I found my classical music I had trained on in high school.
I'll never forget that wonderful memory. It's a reflection of his sweet, loving heart. Dementia has been responsible for some really rough times over the last few years. But as time passes, the sweetness of his spirit in the present far outweigh the difficulty we had in the past. And for that I am so grateful.