We were out tonight with long time friends (35+ years?), eight of us in all. GM (I have written about him before), one of the eight, was diagnosed with early onset of Altzheimers about 10 years ago and has progressively lost his words as well as a reduced ability to perform simple tasks including getting dresssed and eating. Some gifts were exchanged before we all walked to the local Chinese restaurant for dinner. GM’s partner asked him to take the paper and plastic to the recycle at the end of the hall near the elevators. GM looked confused and I said I would walk with him. In the hallway I asked him how he was feeling. He stopped and said, “I feel so…………” and then there was a long pause which is not unusual in his speech as he tries to locate words, “…………..happy.”
And then his eyes filled with tears and of course, then my eyes did too. I rubbed his back and said, “It sounds like you are more blissed out than happy.” He smiled. “Not many people are so lucky.” He nodded. We continued to the end of the hall to the recycling and worked our way back to the apartment.
Later in the evening I shared this little interlude with his partner, MH. He said, “I guess I’m doing a really great job.” Then his eyes filled with tears.
A caretaker’s love is often in tension and stressed. For GM, life can be a kind of nirvana though there is often frustration for him too. Balancing all this for the well being of both the caretaker and the one being cared for, is a miracle of the selfless choreography and capacity of heart space. While the unraveling relentlessly advances, I continually marvel at MH’s ability to create a safe and rich space for GM, even though it may come at some or great sacrifice on MH’s part. I am humbled by the depth of relationship and complex intricacies of the dance they share.
MH has maintained a blog about GM and the progressive manifestations of his Altzheimers. You ought to check it out. It is raw, genuine, and incredibly inspiring.