I BEGAN THIS POST ON SEPTEMBER 24TH, AND THEN LIFE GOT TOO BUSY TO FINISH IT....
I got a late start on getting to the nursing home today. My plan was to leave school by 4:00, go see Billy, and make it to an appointment by 6:00. I left school at 4:45 instead, fought the traffic, and got to Billy at 5:20, and that left me little time to visit. It's not that we sit and talk, but I hate rushing in and back out. He was seated and eating when I got there, so I sat by him while he ate. When he finished, we stood to walk down to the TV room. On the way, he was having to hold up his pants which were falling down. His belt was twisted and the buckle was turned backwards. I knew I had to leave quickly, so I did not fix them. I also noticed an odor and discovered he needed to be changed and wondered how long he had been that way. Again - no time. The nurse had his hands full processing a new resident into the unit, and the two aides were feeding residents. We sat down for a moment, and we talked for a few minutes. Billy had his leg crossed, and I noticed he had on a shoe that was not his and was about two sizes too large. I looked at the other foot, and he was wearing his own shoe.
I'm not certain why I'm so bothered by the shoes, but I am. AD patients have enough issues getting around without wearing a shoe that's too big, trying to hold up his pants, and I'm sure you get the picture.
I knew I had to leave, and I felt bad about leaving Billy so soon after I got there, and I felt guilty for not taking care of what he needed right then. On the way to my appointment, I thought about the fact that what I saw this evening is rare. Billy is nearly always neat and tidy with his own shoes on. He's also clean nearly all the time, so I need to chalk this up to a busy and possibly bad day in the unit.
The balance is off in the unit. Funny that a place where 18 patients with dementia reside has balance to begin with, but it does. When I saw that the resident new to the unit was a man, I knew that meant that one of the four men was no longer in the unit. I had a bad feeling about that. When I looked in the room I saw that it was Donald who was missing. He's the one who was sweet on walking Betty a few months ago. He was walking constantly at that time, and then about a month ago, I noticed a drastic change. He went into the hospital for two weeks. While he was there, he lost 20 pounds and stopped walking. It was a shock to see him when he returned. I talked to his wife soon after he returned, and she was just sick about the regression he had while in the hospital. As I was leaving this evening, I hoped that Donald had been moved to another room outside the unit. That happens sometimes. I asked the charge nurse if Donald was still in the nursing home. She shook her head, and I knew he had passed. "When?" I asked her. This past weekend. I knew he had declined, but I didn't realize the end was so near. It's always sobering when one of the residents passes. Even though caregivers, family, and friends know that their loved one will be whole again upon death, those left here feel such an emptiness when that time comes.
TODAY - OCTOBER 1, 2012
Since I wrote last, I've met the new guy in the unit. He's elderly, extremely thin, and has an amazing head of thick gray hair. He talks coherently, but says dementia-type things. He told me he's known Billy since he was a baby, and he told me that he is in the heating and air conditioning business. Last week, the woman who sits by Billy at the dinner table was telling one of the guys about her boyfriends who used to get her out of jail, and she said the jail is one of those for crazy people. Then she pointed at the nurse, Raymond, who was feeding another resident at the table next to us. "I met him while I was in there, and he does little jobs for me. I give him a few bucks, and he helps me out." Raymond just grinned as he does most of the time. Never a dull moment in the unit.
We've had quite a bit of time with Billy lately, and he's been much more alert. It's been nice to see him smile even though he's usually very quiet. For those who've known Billy since before he had AD, you know how unusual it's been for Billy to be quiet. Billy was funny most of the time...if he had a joke to crack, he could not resist. He also found it necessary to fill silence with words...sometimes funny and sometimes not so funny. I remember times when we were going to be with people who might not know him or appreciate his humor as much as others. I would tell him before we joined them to remember that silence could be golden and not to feel like he had to fill each moment with talk! How I miss his talking and would love to hear it again. He talks now, but it's not the same.
I don't allow myself to dwell on what was very often because sadness drains me, but sometimes I just have to acknowledge that I miss so much about Billy and what was a good marriage - not perfect because no such thing exists - but really good. He did things that drove me nuts, and I'm sure I may have made him a bit crazy at times, but overall, our love and understanding of each other grew stronger and deeper with each year and each experience - good or bad. We cheered each other on in whatever the endeavor. When Billy decided he wanted to pursue his dream of teaching history, we jumped in with both feet. He quit his job (very scary) as manager of Wolfe Nursery, got as many hours transferred from ACU as would be accepted, and took a full load each semester along with working at a local garden center as many hours as humanly possible evenings and weekends. He graduated suma cum laude with his bachelors degree and started immediately on his masters in Constitutional History. He applied for and was chosen as one of two Texans for the James Madison Fellowship in 1997. He spent a summer at Georgetown University one summer and completed his degree at UT-Permian Basin while teaching and coaching. Billy rarely acted or sounded like a brainiac, but he was very bright; his writing proved his talent and vocabulary was far beyond mine, and I was the writing teacher for years. When our kids needed to write anything for history, they called on their dad who was better than Google for naming resources. He could tell them what to write because he already knew it, and then they could back it up with the references he gave them. I miss that he was smarter than I am and could tell me the words to the clues in the NY Times crossword puzzle. I don't do them anymore because he's not here, and even though I was writing the words, we were doing the puzzle. Billy has always been my biggest supporter in my career. Even a few months ago, in the nursing home, he introduced me to one of the staff members. She asked him if he had been a teacher, and of course he replied, "I am a teacher, but she is a principal!"
I miss much more about Billy, but I'm also thankful for what we still have....a loving man who may not remember all our names, but he knows his family, and he loves them so.