31: Yes, But I Still Know Him

31: Yes, But I Still Know Him

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

Yes, But I Still Know Him

The future is called “perhaps,” which is the only possible thing to call the future. And the only important thing is not to allow that to scare you.

~Tennessee Williams

“I am sorry to say that Mr. Gunnett has mild cognitive impairment,” the neurologist said matter-of-factly about my husband. “He is weak in certain areas of problem solving and cognitive reasoning.”

That wasn’t so bad, I thought, not knowing what the words meant. My resistance to what was coming helped me rationalize that everyone has memory loss as they age.

Our lives went along fairly smoothly for the next few years, until I started noticing Bob was forgetting more and more.

Again, I rationalized. It was his hearing loss. After all, how could he remember what I said if he couldn’t hear it in the first place?

Life went on. He sang in a men’s group, entertaining residents at nursing homes and worshipers in local congregations.

But now the time has come. I’m forced to accept that my husband has dementia, probably early-stage Alzheimer’s. It saddens me to see his shop tools lying idle, when they used to hum along as he built project after project. His sense of melody is fading, too, and after many years singing praises to God, Bob’s voice no longer harmonizes with his friends.

We are learning we can focus on the positive and cherish each day.

My friend Carisa recently reminded me: “Patty, it will be fine as long as he remembers he loves you,” which he does.

For many years, I thought I could change Bob, or fix things about him, even the memory loss. Once I read a story about a preacher who surveyed 100 church members, asking them to write down what or who they would like to change. A pretty high percentage admitted they wanted to change their spouses, their bosses, their friends or family members. The preacher was dismayed that not one person said, “Change me.”

Every day, I ask God to change me. I still have a way to go, but I pray for patience as Bob asks me the same question five times in five minutes. I empathize with his frustration at losing his memory, as I know it is beyond his control. And I pray a cure is discovered soon for this terrible disease.

On November 1, 2013, Bob went to live at Arden Courts memory care center as his memory deteriorated quite rapidly over the summer. It was an agonizing decision to make but I had to let go of what I wanted and realize what was best for him. He is well taken care of, plus God has continued to have him use his gift of singing to entertain the other residents, visitors and caregivers!

There is a story about a husband who visits his wife, who has Alzheimer’s, in a nursing home. “Why do you visit her every day? She doesn’t even know who you are,” his friend says. “Yes, but I still know her,” he replies.

For now, Bob still remembers who I am. But if the time comes when he doesn’t, at least I can say, “Yes, but I still know him.”

~Patty Gunnett

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