Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dementia Blogging, 1/15/11: Love in the Time of Alzheimer's

E & G snuggle on the couch:

E: Arm in arm & hand in hand!
I must stay with you.

G: If you get too affectionate, they'll speak to me. They did before.
Maybe I should take you to your room.

[E murmurs in G's ear, fondles her]

G: We're in a public place. You're very special to me. Can I take you to your room so you can lie down? That might help.

E: [holds her hand & arm] It's you. You're my babe. You're the one.
No one can take you.

G: No one's going to take you away from me.

E: I have the right to love you.


S: [again, again] What am I doing here? Why Virginia? I live in New York. The Bronx.

When asked to sit to watch a movie, S. replies that she's not interested.

When I say to S, we keep seeing each other, she says: I'm not tired of YOUR face.


G: What do you want to do this year?

E: Explore each other.

G: And then what?

E: Explore each other for a year and then work on love. Love making.

G: I haven't made love in many years. I was a good Southern girl, didn't fool around. Why don't you talk to me?

E: I have not found many girls who want to experiment. They have been trained to expect that. They have been the aggressors.

G: You fooled around a lot?

E: I played the games they wanted me to play.

G: But you could've gotten AIDS!! You let girls take advantage of you? How long ago?

E: Years & years & years ago. I put it completely out of my mind.

G: I didn't fool around. Oh, it's hot. I had a very happy social life. In the South, it's very different from up here. I was a good girl. You dress too warmly for a Yankee. I'm a southern shit. Not toots, chick.

E: Chickenshit.

G: At A___ there were six or seven men to every girl. There were big bands. I love to dance!
I taught dance down South, then came to DC. Taught elementary school. Never fooled around.

But I bet you had a happy life & the girls took advantage of you.

E: I don't know.

G: I don't share my goodies with anyone unless they're special. You're my buddy.


G: Are you a happy man?

E: Sure.

G: All the time, or now & then?

E: Now & then.

G: Better to be silly than sad.

E: I agree.


G: I should go lie down again. [They kiss.]

Will you come see me when I go home?
You could sleep on the couch in the living room.
Would you like your own bedroom?
Would you like to sleep with me?

E: I'd rather sleep with you.

G: We'd have to be married first!
You need a shampoo. Your head is oily.

I have a waiting list.
I'm teasing you, I hope you know.


G: Are you married? Are you sure you're not married?

E: I would know.

G: One of the ladies said you were married.

E: Then ask HER.


G: You don't want to live here the rest of your life?

E: What brought that on?
Look out the window. There are trees. I suppose not.

G: Not in a facility. you should live the life you want. God made you perfect, in his likeness. There is nothing wrong with you. You ought to be living the life you're meant to live.

Are you happy?

E: I suppose so. I don't know what you want to hear.

G: I was raised in a talking family.

When you come to my house, I'd like to shampoo & cut your hair. I'll be going home soon, & I'll miss you.

E: I don't know what you're getting at!!

G: Say something nice to me before I leave.



My mother's old neighbors come to visit. He says he has had two episodes of global transient amnesia; says it's something for the blog. They tell mom she looks good, her hair looks good, note that she has a dog, the stuffed one I put on her lap each day; the outside social worker brought it to her. It has big, alien-like eyes. I tell her the dog is Irish, McGuillicudy O'Mallory O'Keefe. They said they came once and took mom's picture. Some neighbors refused even to look at the photograph. They show mom pictures of their kids, their grandkids. The pictures are old, but who's to know? Mom smiles at each image on the back of the neighbor's digital camera. When we leave, the neighbor asks her to wave. He waves good-bye to her, and she waves back. I could do that all day with her, he says.


To each resident belongs a script. There is S, who always asks why she is here. There is F, who mumbles about church, whose sentences start, then stop, then end as other sentences. There is T, depressive in jet black dyed hair, who worries about J in a crew cut, because she slumps over in her chair. They all still say thank you when the medicine comes, or the food. S yells out nouns, usually because she does not want them, sometimes because she does. CHAIR!! Mom is digital, smiles and says yes, or frowns and says no, batting her arm at the person who has leaned in too close.

They all have personalities, I tell the neighbor, though they are not those they had before.

There is love in this common room, the one with the television and the chairs and the couch. There are the remembered lines, remembered roles. She says yes, then warns of danger. He says he doesn't understand, but strokes her hair, her arm, her knee. Sometimes strays. She reminds him to go to the bathroom. He tells her she's the one. One wonders where these scripts come from. Their language is formal, even when they curse. They are once married people speaking as if in teenage dream-time, and yet they talk about their children. They do not speak only of sex; they also talk of love. She leans over him and says she wants to comb his hair, shampoo it, cut it. She learned to cut hair because she didn't like how they cut her husband's. It saved him thousands of dollars.

They talk about what is public and what private, about what is allowed and what is not allowed. And they talk about their right to love each other, to live their lives, to be free of this facility. It is not facile, this talk, even as it turns back and starts again each time they approach the couch. They talk of happiness and sadness, houses and husbands, children, what they want of their future. They talk of marriage, of which comes first, it or sex. This is their salon, the stage on which they perform thoughts the censor cannot find or "correct." This is their symposium, their investigation, their exploration, their philosophical dialogue.

You should have been more quiet, one neighbor said to her husband in the parking lot, because the woman on the couch was saying that her mother committed suicide and her sister, too, so she tries to keep in good spirits. Who knows if it was true.

All of it is. It's the place where stories start, where they fail to reach climax or conclusion or denouement or even the end of a well formed phrase. It's a return to innocence when innocence is no longer possible. Why stop them? Why keep order in the house? Why not let the story end with sex, or what they might remember of it, arms and mouths, legs, the place where she has lost her urine and his releases sometimes unawares.

We wouldn't want to tell their children what had happened, one caregiver explains.

1 comment:

Jonathan Morse said...

"The place where stories start": thanks for that.