When I first met my husband, at 16, he was terribly shy. Then he joined the Navy and they knocked the shy right out of my guy. He became the life of the party. Well, sort of. He has always enjoyed gatherings and he loves to host them. He most especially likes to sit in a small group away from the confusion and catch up with those he hasn’t talked to in a while. When he has had enough, he can be found wandering around the yard looking at the flowers, no matter where we are.
Things are different now. Gatherings are terrifying. We are learning some strategies, mostly by trial and error. At the latest wedding, we packed a bag of tricks. My husband loves to play solitaire, so we brought a fully charged tablet. We brought a book of word searches, a worry stone, and spearmint chewing gum. Family thoughtfully placed him with my brother and sister-in-law, as well as my parents. This all helped. He made it five whole hours, not so gracefully, and not by his own free will. But he did it.
He says that noise and confusion are more than he can handle. When he goes for a drive in the rain and in the dark, he says he feels like the world is closing in around him. This is why I drive. I find it fascinating trying to figure out how his brain works. When he mows the lawn he goes so slowly that I have to laugh. I am told that because his mind has to work so much harder than average, the slower speeds seem fast. The challenge is finding things for him to do that are not overly stimulating, where things can move at a slower pace, yet keeping his mind active.
He spends many days puttering and straightening. He does all the laundry and our house has never been cleaner. Last week I came home to find all of the candles out. He proudly proclaimed that he got them all out and put candles in each and every candle holder that we own because he knows I like them. He is right, but I am not going to lie, it looks like we are preparing for a seance!
Honestly, he prefers to stay home. He goes to our family farm, occasionally puts his pole in the water at the local pond, but mostly he feels safest and the least stressed at home. He loves visitors and rarely gets enough courage to go anywhere. This week, we were invited to dinner with a couple from our church and he had the most wonderful time. We also had a couple of friends come to visit. These were the highlights of his week because he really does miss human contact. The wedding was too much. A couple people at one time instead was perfect.
I will continue to tweak my expectations as needed, and be alright with the fact that he is not the same man as he was even two years ago when we danced together at the wedding of one of my dearest friends. Our dances will have to take place in the privacy of our home in front of the fireplace with classic tunes from the 80’s playing from the stereo. “Stuck on you, got the feeling down deep in my soul that I just can’t lose…” Gotta love Lionel Richie.
Yet, I am surprised at how content I feel. I am not sure why. Nothing has really changed. When my children were young, I remember telling my mom that I was worried about the teen years with my children. She told me that the good news was that we didn’t give birth to teenagers and that the process would be slow and that we would work into “teenagehood” a little at a time. I have concluded that the Dementia process will be the same way. He didn’t get to where he is over night, and the process will be gradual. I am determined to keep a positive attitude and take one day at a time..