Sep 16, 2013

Love and Special Gifts

Although he had become loving, loveable, adorable and happy, I was in a state of utter despair. I couldn’t even have what was (for me) a meaningful conversation with him.

By Marie Marley
+Alzheimer's Reading Room

Love and Special Gifts | Alzheimer's Reading Room
Ed and Adorable

Some experts on Alzheimer’s say that activities for persons living with dementia should be adult in nature. But anyone who reads the stories I’m about to tell would have to agree there can be exceptions.

Ed, my Romanian life partner of 30 years, had Alzheimer’s. Although he had become loving, loveable, adorable and happy, I was in a state of utter despair. I couldn’t even have what was (for me) a meaningful conversation with him.

I was angry and I was depressed. I wanted my old Ed back. But I knew he was never coming back.

It was so bad I didn’t even want to visit. I had to force myself to visit. And I knew I’d never be able to accept his condition.

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The Little Yellow One

One day on the way to one of my forced visits I stopped at Walgreen’s to get some shampoo. On the way to the hair care section, I passed through the aisle with stuffed animals.

I stopped and thought “Hmm . . . I wonder if Ed would like a stuffed animal? He is childlike at times.”

Then I immediately decided he would just be offended that I’d brought him a child’s toy. So I went on and got the shampoo.

But when I got to the cash register my heart told me to go back to the little stuffed animals. On a whim and against my better judgment I got him a little yellow chick.

I went out to the nursing home and put it in his hand. At first he just sat there looking at the thing. I had no idea what he was thinking.

But I didn’t have to wait long. Soon he held it to his chest, petted it and kissed it.

Then he looked me right in the eyes and said, “Thank you! Thank you so much!

I never had such a lovely present in all my life!

Needless to say I was immensely pleased and relieved.

“I think you should give it a name,” I said.

“The Lee-tle Yellow One,” he shouted with glee, as though that was the only name it could have.

Adorable

Then I went out on a limb again and asked, “Would you like a bunny rabbit, too?”

“Oh, I would love a bunny rabbit. He would be for The Lee-tle Yellow One a companion.”

So the next day I took him a bunny rabbit, which he immediately named Adorable.

I had to go out into the hall to talk to one of the nurses. Before leaving I put Adorable on the foot of Ed’s bed. When I came back I saw that he had put Adorable on his pillow. I was touched.

Ed looked me right in the eyes again and said, “Maybe I’m see-ly at my age playing with these lee-tle stuffed animals, but I r-r-really do love them so much.”

Seeing how much joy the little animals brought him I kept taking more and more.

And he loved each one more than the one before.


The “Beep” Game

One day I decided to play a game with Ed and Adorable. I pressed on the bunny’s nose and said “beep” at the same instant.

As I had hoped, Ed thought Adorable said ”beep”. He laughed and pressed the bunny’s nose over and over. Each time I said “beep.”

Then I picked up The Little Yellow One and we played the same game with it.

Soon after that I began laughing, too! It was fun!

After a while I decided to let him in on the secret. I told him I was making the “beep” – not Adorable.

“Oh! You are wonderful. You are magnificent,” he said. “You could ask a hun-nerd people and they would all say you are magnificent!”

So then I decided to start interacting with Ed at his level rather than try to make him interact at mine – because he couldn’t.

I felt that just seeing him smile and hearing him laugh had become more than enough to make up for losing our previous relationship.

Then one day I realized that my heart had changed forever. I had accepted his condition.

Our love had adapted and endured, even despite Alzheimer’s.

The Breathing Puppy

I was in the mall a couple of weeks later and saw a battery-operated puppy. Its little chest moved up and down as though breathing. I was sure Ed would love it so I bought one for him.

In fact it was so cute I almost got one for myself, too!

Ed loved it as much as he loved all the other stuffed animals.

One day he told me, “The first thing I do when I come to my r-r-room is look to see if the lee-tle puppy is still breathing.”

Again I was deeply touched.

As fate would have it, however, the little puppy would outlive Ed, but not before I took still one more stuffed animal.

The Last Bunny

One day I took Ed an enormous bunny rabbit with white curly fur. When I gave it to him he held it tightly to his chest, caressed it and kissed its head.

“Do you like it?” I asked.

“Like it?” he said. “I love him.”

When I got ready to leave that day he asked me when I was coming back. He always asked me that. And I always said “tomorrow” even if I wasn’t planning to go back the next day.

I said that because it made him happy and I knew he’d never know the difference.

But that day, instead of saying “Wonderful! Marvelous!” as he always did, he got a hurt look on his face.

“Tomorrow?” he asked. “What do you have to do that’s so important you can’t come back until tomorrow?”

I was surprised. This was new.

So I asked, “Well, when do you want me to come back?”

“Today,” he said.

“OK. I’ll come back today.”
“Early today,” he said.

OK. I’ll come back early today.

And that’s how my book got its name – Come Back Early Today.

Early the next morning I was working in my office at home when the phone rang.

I couldn’t imagine who could be calling me at 6:00 on a Sunday morning.

I picked up the phone. It was a woman’s voice I didn’t recognize.

She said her name was Joyce and she was calling from the nursing home to tell me that Ed . . . had just . . . passed away.

Marie Marley, PhD, is the award award winning author of, Come Back Early Today: A Story of Love, Alzheimer’s and Joy. You can visit Marie’s website at ComeBackEarlyToday.
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You are reading original content +Bob DeMarco , the Alzheimer's Reading Room