Monday, April 9, 2012
Resurrection: An Alzheimer's Reflection
We sit staring at the multi-colored fish in the huge wall aquarium, keeping the conversation going. The Alzheimer wing is bright, friendly and my uncle John, its newest resident, is well cared for.
I am no more than a bystander in John’s life, now an unknown stranger. Most painfully, he no longer knows his wife, his three children, his sister or his brother (my father). But he thanks my father and I for coming. Repeatedly. He periodically asks who we are, and where we are staying. He smiles. He comments, “Aren’t we doing well?”
And he is, really, in the grand scheme of things. His wife loves him, misses him, and has been able to care for him well beyond the point most reach. She has found him a good facility close to her home. He has children and grandchildren in town who visit, and a sister and brother who travel from their distant towns as often as possible. His wife and children suffer tremendously, but they are loving him with grace, endurance, and depth.
My father and I talk about family, tell John how everyone is doing. We ask him how the food is here; he says he can’t really remember. My father talks about his own latest singing gig, a St Patrick’s Day event, and launches into one of the songs. John knows a few of the words, so my father tries Danny Boy next. From the first word John joins in. And sings every word. He knows it all.
Then he looks at my father and says, “You’re my brother Tom?” My father smiles.
The moment passes. John asks who we are again. We talk some more and it’s time to part, to bid farewell. I take a picture of the brothers, smiling, and John says, “This’ll be a good one.” It is.
Then he walks us strangers to the exit with its security code. We say good-bye again. I can tell he no longer knows who he is hugging. But just as the door closes, he says to my father, “I love you, you know.”
I don’t know if he knows who he said it to. I don’t know if he still understands what it means. But it’s there again, the resurrection, just for a moment. And we know, someday, forever.