Reality is a very hard thing to grasp. I can see the fountain Coca-Cola in front of me, taste its sweet goodness, smell cinnamon and bacon in the air, and hear the piano rolling along in the background. (The combination of these sights and smells along with the happy A-flat major can pick up my mood quickly.)
Does reality end as I start to supply more information into this scene? As long as I have decided that the absent bass player must double as cook, currently working on my Creole french toast, then it is so, until someone comes and disturbs my scene with truer information.
I really don’t have “favorite” patients, but there are always one or two who stick on me like the dust of the day, only they are much harder to launder away.
One such patient, Mrs. G, has progressed through the stages of dementia quickly, going from knowing she couldn’t remember and being frustrated about that, to only remembering her husband. She is rapidly forgetting how to walk, talk, and eat.
I sat with her one day last week and helped her with such daily activities. She held onto me and shuffled her feet as I helped her to her bed and then later, to the couch. She tried hard to make her words form sentences, but she struggled putting them in logical order. She couldn’t recognize the people in her photo albums.
She pointed to an empty chair across the room, “that’s my aunt Vera, over there.”
“Did she take care of you?”
“Oh yes, very much.”
Then later, “Grandpa?…Grandpa?”
“He must not hear you. Is he busy?”
“Yes, he is unloading trucks. Tuxedos. Grandpa? Grandpa?”
I would try and further the scenes she was setting up, but she could not broaden them. Mrs. G’s reality was not really my reality, but in those moments, it was. It had to be. I had to go to the scene where she was, even if I couldn’t see what she could see.
When evening comes and the sun lets the moon have the stage, I will sometimes feel like my thoughts and feelings and emotions have free reign, inventing scenarios that are not plausible and producing fear that is not reasonable. I will feel lost and helpless, mad, sad, and anxious. My shoulders will curl forward and my head will drop into my chest and I, tucked in, will wish for morning to come through my window quickly.
It is hard explaining what happens to those who have normal levels of necessary chemicals in their bodies and brains.
This is sometimes my reality even though it is not all real. When it happens, it is always real to me. Thankfully, though it is not his reality, my husband will gently put his hand around my shoulders and lead me through the brunt of those moments.
My baby girl is quickly pulling up and crawling her way out of “baby” status. She will coordinate her eyebrows and hands and syllables, all part of her language, and offer, or contribute to, conversations. Her unique way of mimicking does not always make sense, though she is surely getting the hang of things. She makes perfect sense to herself though and gets frustrated with her dad and me when we don’t follow or respond in a timely manner.
She loves the part of the meal where she gets to feed herself. She will sometimes examine each pea or each apple piece and thoroughly enjoy its path from her fingers to her mouth. Other times, when she thinks their time might be limited together, she will shove a loaded fistful of food into her mouth quickly, taking little or no time to savor.
Though she has yet to take that first, unassisted step, she is enjoying the freedom of standing up alone, reaching higher and deeper and further. As long as she has a hand or object to hold on to, she will walk, though I think she’d just assume do it by herself.
Dependent Independents–aren’t we all? It’s nice to know that a sturdy hand is available when we need it to be. It’s nice to know that the human experience incorporates an individual’s reality into the reality of the whole. It’s nicer when one human embraces and yea, even honors, another’s reality though he or she may not see, feel, or hear the same things.
As the piano keeps rolling, (still sans a bass player), I am invited to consider the “trees of green” and “red roses too.” I think to myself, here, with the skies of blue directing my eyes outside, yes, it is a wonderful world.
To read more by Stephanie, visit her blog here.