The latest issue of Time has a major section on Alzheimer's, its effects and profound misery. Maria Shriver has a family history of Alzheimer's and tomorrow, Sunday the 17th, she'll break her silence even more to discuss with Christiane Amanpour how Alzheimer's effect family members.
Not all experiences of Alzheimer's are sad. Over the last few months my daughters and I have learned to laugh at some of the effects of Alzheimer's on my wife and their mother. We decided a long time ago that when the occasion was pure nonsense and startling we were going to laugh. Although I still walk away from her with a tear in my eye, there are other times that as soon as I leave the residence I laugh out loud, get on the phone and let my daughters laugh with me.
On three occasions, now, it's been part of a morning or evening phone conversation. Typically, I phone my wife in the morning when before she goes for breakfast and then in the evening when before she goes to bed. We'll talk about nothing . . .the weather, the bagel she and I shared one day, or the cranberry oatmeal cookie. Once in a while, when D'Amico happens to have its famous key lime crostata, I grab two and go over to the residence for desert. She loves the crostata, but more, she loves eating it with me. They are such little things, but seemingly so very important. So I talk about them on the phone.
Then, toward the end of the phone conversation, comes this from my wife. "I want to thank you for calling me. It's so very nice. Would you tell your wife how much I appreciate her sharing you with me and how very kind she is? Sometime, I'd like to thank her. Tell her it's very kind of her to let you spend time talking to me."
I used to tell her that she's my wife, but that doesn't work anymore. Now I just say, "I'll be sure to tell her." Then I hang up the phone and laugh out loud, typically calling one of my daughters and telling them that she's done it again. We all laugh. It's their mom and my wife.
On several occasions, unsolicited, people have told me how very "kind" my wife was and how "kind" they remember her being. It's strange. Although I know that she's a kind person, I've never thought of her that way. I always admired her for her intellectual smarts, her love of music, love of me, her children and grandchildren, and ability to teach children, no matter the situation.
It's amazing how even a disease like Alzheimer's can reveal something about a person that you've missed, in spite of the fact that others noticed it. But I know eventually even those conversations will come to an end.