20: The Clock with One Hand

20: The Clock with One Hand

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias

The Clock with One Hand

Our wedding was many years ago. The celebration continues to this day.

~Gene Perret

I fell in love with the lady more than fifty years ago. We were both in high school. She’s the gal I took to the prom. We dated through high school, we went off to different colleges but dated when we were back home for summers and holidays, and we got married right after college graduation.

We certainly had a happy, fulfilling, wonderful life together. We lived in Europe for a few years. We both got advanced degrees when we returned to the States. She taught English at the university and I had a rewarding business career. We raised two wonderful sons who now have families and careers of their own.

Throughout our lives there was always a division of duties. Nothing formal. We never really talked much about it; it just evolved. She took care of certain things and I took care of others. We handled just about everything as a close-knit team.

About eight years ago our world started to change. She noticed it before anyone else. She started to lose vocabulary. Occasionally she would have trouble explaining a concept to a student. Eventually it got to the point where she felt she couldn’t teach at the level that her students deserved, and she gave up her teaching position.

My life started to change at that point, too. I tried to help her find the words she had lost. “That path along the side of the road is called a sidewalk.” “The thing letters go in is called a mailbox.” Dealing with a menu in a restaurant was difficult. She was losing the ability to read words, but even when I’d read the menu to her she didn’t know fish from chicken. Once the entrée had been decided, I helped her choose sides with a piece of paper I kept in my wallet that had photos of baked, French fried, and mashed potatoes.

It was hard, but it was something I was happy to do for the love of my life. As her dementia worsened, our division of duties underwent drastic changes, and has now reached the point where if something has to be done, I do it. The marriage vows we made to each other those many years ago included “love, honor, and support,” “in sickness and in health,” and “till death do us part.”

I’m glad I had a chance to share those vows with my wife. I count myself lucky to have shared all those years with her. Little did I know what those vows might involve, but I can say with all honesty that had I known I still would have made the vow, and knowing what I know today, I’m very glad that I did. At some point I will need to enlist even more help with my wife’s day-to-day care. But until that day comes, I keep reminding myself that helping her dress, helping her eat, or carrying photographs of potatoes to help her decide side orders are all ways I can tell her that she is still the love of my life.

Since numbers have no meaning any longer, both digital and analog clocks are simply a source of puzzlement to her. Yet I often wish I could communicate to her the passage of time. How does one tell someone who has lost language that lunchtime isn’t for an hour and a half, or that bedtime is in two hours?

I’ve developed a solution that seems to work. I bought a battery-powered wall clock and removed the second hand and the minute hand. She has become aware that although the remaining hour hand appears stationary, it does in fact move with time. Now I can put a piece of tape at the location the hand will be when it is dinnertime or bedtime, and she can check it occasionally to see that the hour hand is approaching the designated time.

Life certainly is full of twists and turns. Who would have thought that building a one-handed clock could be yet another way to tell my wife “I love you.”

~Fred Kinsinger

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