“It’s the unacknowledgement of a reality that is constantly hitting us, as spouses, in the face, but for which reasonable, constructive dialogue is either ineffective or impossible any more. Quite draining, and erodes the bond we knew and loved with our spouses.”–Jabberwalky08, responding to my last post, expresses the predicament of the spouse caregiver beautifully.
So Ralph’s car keys are missing. Actually he couldn’t find them the morning after his evening of too many beers, but I didn’t think too much about it when I wrote last because I assumed they’d show up. They haven’t
That first morning I’d already left the house when Ralph discovered he couldn’t find his keys. I told him where the extra set was and he seemed mollified. But that afternoon when he still had not found them, he was upset.
“You don’t remember where you put them when you got them out of my car?” Ralph asked as I helped him look. His tone was level and very polite, as if he was trying to avoid embarrassing me.
“But I didn’t get them out of your car.”
“Ok, but if you had where would you put them?”
“I would hang them on the key hook with the other key.”
“That doesn’t make sense since you’d want to hide themfrom me.”
“But I didn’t want to hide them, because I didn’t get them out of the car.”
“I remember you getting them out of the car. You were afraid I’d drive inebriated.”
“No, I had not reason to be afraid because you went straight to lie down. Anyway, I was holding raw chicken breasts when you came in the house. Don’t you remember?” Stupid question to ask, I know.
“I remember you getting the keys.”
“I didn’t get your keys.”
“But if you did, where would you hide them.”
Are you getting bored and frustrated yet?
This conversation, or a longer version, was held and repeated in several variations every time we were together. Ralph always remained remarkably calm, probably because he didn’t remember asking or answering the same questions two minutes ago. I became increasingly annoyed. “Which one of us has memory issues?” I blurted out at one point.
I have learned over time that what is remembered by someone with cognitive impairment can be just as problematic as what is forgotten. But now we were on a new level of looping memory. We’d become a microcosm of what pundits are so busy discussing about facts, alternative facts, news and fake news. I knew I had not been out to Ralph’s car, taken his keys and hidden them. But he knew I had.
Ralph can be very convincing when he believes something, and his certainty was stronger than mine. After all, I have the niggling awareness that there have been enough occasions when I have done something similar—hiding beer cans for instance on a daily basis. I didn’t take the keys this time, but I could have and might in the future.
So I began to question myself. Could I have done something with his keys and forgotten? Was my memory going.
NO, I really couldn’t have and didn’t. And NO, my memory is not less trustworthy than Ralph’s
BUT there was no reconciling my sense of reality and Ralph’s and no arguing to a comfortable conclusion.
It would have been a darkly depressing state of affairs except that in saying I’d taken his keys, Ralph was also acknowledging that he’d drunk too much–that the drinking caused the loss of the keys, whether by his hand or mine. That knowledge has made him more willing, at least for now, to follow my rules and schedule. Last night as he headed to the porch, I nagged him to make a check on his life list to account for the beer he was holding. He merely shrugged, but a minute later he came back inside.
“Thanks for working so hard to keep me alive.”
I was speechless. For a moment we were living in the same reality. Then, lulled into thinking we could chat, I mentioned that our older grandchildren were arriving on Thursday.
“Why are they coming?”
“Is it Christmas? Oh so is everyone coming for Christmas?”
“No, we’re all going to New Orleans on Friday.”
“We are? Oh, I forgot.”
It has been twenty-four hours since Ralph has mentioned the missing keys; that’s good news but the bad news may be that he’s forgotten he lost them. And because we live on different planes of communication, I can’t bring myself to ask him.