The doctor did not bother with niceties or try to cushion the blow. My husband had dementia. And it seemed to be moving quickly. By then, of course, we knew. I think many families are in the same situation. The medical diagnosis just confirms what we live and see every day.
I looked at Michael. His dear face, his clear blue eyes. This man who, as a pediatric hematologist, had held the hands of dreadfully ill and dying children, nodded.
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I took his hand and held it as the doctor went through the options. It didn't take long. There were none.
On the drive home, I promised that he would never be left behind or left out. If I went somewhere, he would go, too. It was the first of a number of promises that would be broken.
We'll never leave the home we love. I would never speak to him as though he were a child. I would never get angry.
I think the first year might have been the most difficult, as big pieces of him fell away. As the blank looks grew longer. As the silences stretched out.
Every morning I would write up a series of tests, which I called games, because that was less painful. Math, mostly. And conversions of currencies. And some memory tests. Showing him objects, then taking them away and asking him to remember. Of course, at least half the time, I couldn't remember them.
He was very patient. Perhaps even amused.
My day was prescribed by how well Michael did on those tests. If he did well, I was relieved and happy. If he did badly, I was anxious and stressed.
I remember my impatience, my annoyance verging on anger, when one day he couldn't figure out how to do long division. The day before he did it fine. And now …
He was a scientist. A full professor of medicine, a doctor with an international reputation. And now, he couldn't divide 2 into 20. And then he couldn't copy a triangle. Or write a full sentence. Or tie his shoes.
We sold our lovely home because he was having trouble walking, and stairs were not only difficult, they were a danger. I say "we," but the decision was mine.
I didn't ask him, didn't consult him, for fear he'd say no.