Sunday, April 24, 2011

Didn't See That Coming!

It's been an incredibly busy week for us with the unpacking that needs to be done, the errands needing to be run, my schedule, and life in general. One important event was Billy's appointment on Friday morning with the doctor where we had a long discussion about his anxiety and agitation. Billy's appointment was at 8:45, and he had been awake and up since 3:00a.m. I gave in at 4:00 because the bed needed to be made, and I was preventing that. I really needed to get up a bit early because I had to be at the hospital for a small procedure at 6:00, and I was taking Billy with me because of his appointment. I was nervous about leaving him alone in the waiting room while I went into the treatment area, but God sent a talkative couple who had him engaged in conversation. I felt okay about leaving him there, and I was only away for 10 minutes. He was pretty calm when we arrived at the his appointment, but the doctor mentioned how anxious he seemed right then as he was fidgeting. I guess I don't realize as much because if he is awake, he if fidgeting. A new medicine was added, and she is weaning him off another med that is a stimulant. So now we wait for the new regimen to take effect.

Today was a rather relaxing day for us. We worshipped at the Saturday night service last night, so we spent most of this morning unpacking boxes - actually I unpacked boxes, and Billy took boxes and paper to the garage. By afternoon, we were tired, and while Billy watched SportsCenter, I decided to take a nap. Our bedroom is just off the family room, so I could leave the door open while Billy watched TV, and I napped. When I'm out of sight, he often forgets where I am. This way I could hear him if he called me. I think I slept about 1/2 an hour before he came looking for me. I could hear him going down the hall, then coming back toward our room. He came in and woke me up while he was talking to me and asking what day it was. I opened my eyes and talked for a minute or two, and then he said, "I wanted you to meet my girlfriend." My immediate response was, "Oh, honey, you don't have a girlfriend." He looked at me with his you don't know what you're talking about look and said, "Yes, I do have a girlfriend. She was here for a long time while you were sleeping."

If I've learned nothing, I've learned to expect the unexpected, but this one really took me by surprise. I asked him to tell me her name, and he thought for minute, then said, "I forget those things. But I really love you." I have to admit that a part of me wanted to insist he produce her because she needed to take her turn in his caretaking! I could use a break, and maybe this girlfriend is the one to give it to me. All kidding aside, I have to say I did not see this one coming. When he told me about it, it was without shame, and he had no intent to hurt me and no realization that him having a girlfriend would be inappropriate or hurtful to me. My instant response was to laugh, and I resisted that because it would have hurt Billy. It's hard to explain, but when I question him about something he's said, he gets a bit defiant. One day he kept mentioning that he wanted to go visit his mom, and he thought we should call her. I sat down beside him, and said, "Honey, I know you don't remember this, but your mom passed away about two and a half years ago." He looked me straight in the eyes and said, "I know you think I'm hallucinating, but I saw her this morning, and she's fine." I find it's best just to go along with his delusions and try to redirect him.

I know that Billy doesn't have a girlfriend, and I do not question his love or fidelity. But I also know I may have to face similar situations in the future. A few years ago, I was watching the HBO documentary series on Alzheimer's Disease that was produced by Maria Shriver. It showed a man and woman in a nursing home who seemed very much in love, and introduced each other as husband and wife. They had separate rooms, and when it was bedtime, the woman went to his room and lay down with him (fully clothed) and embraced him. She told the person filming that they were so lucky to have each other. In the next part of the film, you see the woman who is actually his wife and their daughter. They are heading to the nursing home to pick him up and take him to a church function. When they arrive, they see their husband and father sitting in the living area with the woman that the viewers thought was his wife. His actual wife greets her, and they go on as "normal." He gets up and leaves with his wife and daughter. I remember thinking that I didn't know if I could handle that. Is this phantom "girlfriend" preparing me for something more concrete? I don't know, but I do know that I have to always remember that this person with Alzheimer's is not the same as the person I married and have loved for more than three decades. My love for him is not diminished in any way, but my relationship with him is changing, and my role is morphing from spouse to caretaker. I pray for peace in my role, and I pray that I will have clarity as I make decisions on the best path to take for Billy.

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