A Moment in My Life – Friday, November 13, 2020
I committed myself to call my Father-in-Law every day so he wouldn’t feel so alone. I also decided that I would try to help keep his mind sharp for a little longer. He’s fighting a losing battle with a mild case of dementia, but every little bit helps. He finally got it that he needs to walk every day, and I am so proud of him for making the daily effort. He laughs and thinks I’m a genius when I remind him that he would lose it if he doesn’t use it.
For months, our daily conversations were brief and filled with small talk. ‘How was your day?’ ‘I had a good day.’ Then it became, ‘I had a very, very good day!’ and I purposely call him soon after his dinner, so I could ask him what he had for dinner. I am beginning to realize that this part of his dementia is non-negotiable. His plate could still be warm in front of him, but he isn’t capable of reciting his meal to me. It’s become an excellent icebreaker, though. He laughs every time I ask, ‘What did you have for dinner?’ because he remembers me asking, but he couldn’t give me the answer I expected. Instead, he laughs and tells me, ‘You are funny. You always ask me.’ I tell him, ‘That’s okay. We will try again tomorrow,’ and tomorrow is a new day.
Every so often, I sprinkle in current events, which is always news to him. ‘Thank you. Thank you for telling me that. I didn’t know that,’ he would say. I remind him of who his family is, too. It’s hard to determine what he retains because when he picks up my calls, he started saying, ‘Nice to hear from you again!’ The comment stifles my decision to announce, ‘This is Jeannie, your daughter-in-law,’ which was my way of helping him identify the caller. I recently got my answer. He remembers me as the daily caller but not who I was.
A few days ago, something I said to him sparked a memory, and we started a serious conversation where I spent the rest of the call bringing him down memory lane and reassuring him that everything was fine with his lodging and his care. I learned that people who have dementia periodically need reminders that they are okay and need their minds put at ease.
The next day, he couldn’t remember our long, heavy conversation, so I briefly reminded him when he suddenly asked me, ‘Did you remarry?’ I replied, ‘No, I did not.’ Then he surprised me with, ‘You should. You are young and healthy. You should not be alone.’ Wow, that was heavy. I told him that I wasn’t looking and that I am concentrating on my career.
His words lingered in my mind. It feels like only last month that Mark left this world, yet it’s been almost two years. I remember those movies where the widow or widower meets a new person a year or two or three later, and they go through the roller coaster ride dealing with facing the new relationship while dealing with their loss. I used to think that was long enough, and it made sense for them to move on. But now, when I put me into the scenario, it feels too soon. I am nowhere near ready to consider someone new in my life. I realize this is subjective, and unless you have faced this yourself, it is hard to make the call. I do look forward to being with someone new one day, not today. I think it’s too soon, or is it?