|On stage in "Light Up the Sky", playing a professional|
ice skater married to a Broadway producer. Now that's fastasyland.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
ALZHEIMER'S: IT'S MY HOUSE
“Are you ready to go?” I ask Joe as I put the finishing touches on the house. It’s another Open House day and I’ve got to make sure everything is polished, arranged and staged just right for the showings. We’re only one week into this tedious process of making a house look like no one actually lives in it, despite the fact that when people arrive all the lights are on and soft classical music is playing through the cable Television’s surround sound. It’s a necessary illusion in today’s real estate selling process and we must disappear so a client can fantasize, imagining it as their home.
“Yes, I’m ready,” Joe replies. “Where are we going?”
I’ve answered the question at least four times this morning but I explain again. “We’re just going out to lunch and then for a bit of shopping while the house is being shown. Do you have your hat?”
“Why can’t I just stay here?” Joe asks. “It’s my house. I can do what I want.”
“Now Joe, we’ve done this many times before when we’ve sold a home. Come on, the realtor will be here in five minutes. What would you like for lunch? Maybe we’ll go by the DQ on the way back.” (That usually gets Joe going.)
We’re finally in the car and it’s 110 degrees today. I’ve got to figure out how to keep Joe and Al happy for three hours when all they really want is to be home napping in the air conditioning.
What was I thinking? Why did I think it would be easy? And more importantly, how long can we keep this up? We aren’t scheduled to leave for our daughter’s home in California for another two weeks. By then, I’ll be completely out of anything to occupy Joe and Al and we may have to resort to a new strategy like hiding ourselves in a closet while people are viewing the house. What a visual that creates; Joe and I in the closet, with Al standing behind us whispering in Joe’s ear that it’s “too crowded in here” and he needs to go to the bathroom.
All of this is just one giant reminder that things aren’t how they once were, before Al showed up and moved in.
I remember the exhilaration of selling a house we’d worked hard to revive from near death and turned into a showplace. We’d been eager to show the result to anyone who happened to stumble in. But that was then, and this is now, here in Alzheimersville.
It’s a different world here. Things are unpredictable, and sometimes confusing. One day Joe is with the program and seems to understand exactly what’s going on. But the next day, he’s struggling to anchor himself against the tornado spiraling in his mind making it difficult to do something as simple as sign his name.
Yesterday morning, as we were sitting on the patio sipping our morning coffee, Joe points to the house across the greenway and says, “Do you see that person over there in the wedding dress?”
I look in the direction he’s pointing but see no one and certainly no wedding dress. Besides, the house he’s pointing to is owned by an 84-year-old widowed neighbor which makes it highly unlikely she would be wearing a wedding dress.
“I don’t see anything.” I say, “Where are you pointing?”
Joe seems irritated, “RIGHT OVER THERE, LOOK,” he responds.
I look again. Still nothing. Then I remember something I learned while watching a training video produced by Teepa Snow, a leading expert on Alzheimer’s Caregiving. Teepa points out that arguing with someone living in Alzheimersville will almost never have a successful outcome. That the best thing to do in a situation like this is to agree and “go along with it”. So I tell Joe that it seemed strange that Mary (that’s our neighbor’s name) would be wearing a dress like that. Joe agrees and the subject quickly dies.
I have to disregard my need to be logical or right because I can’t use reason with Joe. He no longer has the constraint of being logical or pragmatic. To my amazement he frequently talks about playing golf again. I could come up with all kinds of logic and try to explain to him the unlikelihood of that happening. But in Joe’s world, he wouldn’t accept anything contrary to what he believes. He doesn’t have to. And for that matter, I could be wrong. Maybe in the right circumstances, with the right support, he could play golf.
Some days I completely cross the line from reality to fantasy. Come to think of it, that’s what acting is all about, and everyone knows how I love acting; transforming myself into another person, another era, another time, another place. Maybe that’s what this is all about, I’m rehearsing for the role of lifetime.
There I am in fantasyland again because I know my life, Joe’s life, isn’t a rehearsal. It’s real no matter how crazy or illogical things may seem.
Anybody want to buy a house?