My name is Jane and my husband of 36 years was diagnosed with Dementia/Alzheimer’s about three and half years ago. This blog is a tale of our lives after “Al” (the name I’ve given Joe’s disease) moved in. In the two years since I began this blog, it's been read in over 25 countries. It really is "AL" over the world. Thanks for coming along with us down a path of uncertainty. Joe passed on November 19, 2016.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
ALZHEIMER'S--LET'S GET THEATRICAL
Joe, the early bird, waiting for the play to start 2012
me the first word, that’ll get me started.”
Every time I
auditioned for a play it was the same thing, a little panic and lots of worry
that I just might have bitten off more than I could chew. Maybe this time I wouldn’t be able to
memorize the umpteen lines of the character I wanted to play.
What if I
got on stage and blanked? It happens,
not just to community theater actors, but to professionals on Broadway, too.
It is the
most terrifying experience to believe that you are “well-rehearsed”, that you
have it down pat, only to step on stage, open your mouth, and have no words
come out. It is to be avoided at all
Joe knew how
much I loved theater and performing, and he was always more than willing to
help me prepare for a part. We would
spend hours running lines.
I would set
a daily goal, maybe three pages. That doesn’t
seem like many, does it?
For me to
memorize three pages a day required intense concentration and a lot of backing up
and doing it over. Joe would sometimes
get annoyed with me after I screwed a line for what seemed like the hundredth
time, but we persevered and eventually I would get them.
night of the play, I would be as ready as I possibly could be, and so would
Joe. Not only had he coached me to
remember every line, but in the process he could say virtually every line
himself. I used to say that if I fainted
and fell off the stage he might have been able to go on as my understudy. (Well, that might have been a bit
through many performances of a play, and no one was happier than Joe when I
would make it through the final act without a major blow up. He was
an excellent partner in the process.
Many times I
tried to get Joe to join our theater group, to become openly involved. He always
declined. Back then I didn’t understand
why, but I now believe it was Al.
that Joe felt the changes that had begun.
He knew something wasn’t exactly right with his ability to socialize,
hang out with a group, and mingle; the way he dealt with his discomfort was to
withdraw from anything that would reveal a problem.
Joe started a
slow social shut down. Watching sports
was in his comfort zone, so that’s what he did.
After all, he had always loved sports and watching it didn’t require any social interaction.
played golf, but it was with people that he knew very well, that wouldn’t tax
him socially, letting him focus on golf and the competition.
I wish I
could go back to some of those experiences with Joe. I think I would be more sympathetic and
understanding of his withdrawal.
I’d get upset
with his refusals to come out of the cave (the den). Back
then, I’d have been happy if he had shown interest in anything that would have gotten
him out into the world (poker, ballroom dancing, bodybuilding, falconry).
many nights that I left Joe “home alone” to fend for himself, dinner in the fridge.
complain about any of that, but in retrospect I understand that being alone wasn’t
what he needed. Now that we’re more familiar
with Al, we know the importance of social interaction, exercise and healthy
eating, and that each are of equal weight in dealing with this beast.
It’s still a
challenge to get Joe going and out of the house. I have to be creative sometimes, or just plain
pester him until he gives up. There are days
he really would rather sit in his chair and view a high definition world
through a 50 inch screen.
Me getting theatrical
probably time I thanked Joe for the support he provides to all of my endeavors. For 35 years, he’s put up with my creative
digressions, all of my nonsense, every wacky design idea. The guy has been through a lot with me and my
it’s not hard to put the brakes on my other interests and focus on Joe. When he needs a little help figuring things
out, I’m there to point the way. If he
needs support to keep Al at arm’s length or duct taped to a lawn chair, it is
my pleasure to assist.
when he says, “Just give me the first
word, that’ll get me started.” (Déjà vu.)
In a play when
there is a radical change in its expected direction, it’s called a “plot
twist”. Life is full of “plot twists”.