Did You Miss Me?

Tuesday late afternoon.  Expecting Ryan who has been working a lot of hours in the restaurant in town where it is the busy tourist season.  He came by yesterday about this time to mow half the lawn, and will be back today at about the same time even though Tuesdays are usually his off days.

He would not have been able to do any mowing yesterday if it hadn’t been for the coke remedy suggested by Jim Keely whom I first hired shortly after we moved in to construct floor to ceiling bookcases in our dining room, and whom I now call when I confront any kind of fix it problem.  He suggested cleaning the battery and starter terminals with coke.  I did.  It worked.  Apparently others are aware of this odd sounding remedy.

Wednesday late after an uneventful day.

A brief but provocative conversation this morning.

After serving Carol her breakfast, and feeding the dog hers, I started fixing mine.  I realized that in my grocery shopping yesterday, I had forgotten to get milk, this even though I have downloaded a very serviceable shopping list app.  I discovered, however, it does not work if you don’t enter an item on it.  So although I knew I needed milk, I didn’t see it on the list on my phone, so did not buy it.

All of which is preface to my deciding that because I really wanted milk for my cereal,  I would hop in my car and drive to the market, some four and a half miles down the road.  I can usually make it to the market and back in about fifteen to twenty minutes and feel reasonably comfortable in leaving Carol alone in the house with the dog for that length of time.

Carol was sitting in her chair in the living room with classical music from the Interlochen station playinh. “I’m going to the store,” I said, “and will be back in a few minutes.”

She didn’t respond, which is not unusual.  In those situations, I do not know whether she has processed what I have said.  Perhaps she was so into the music, or even somewhere else in her mind, that my words did not register.

No matter.  She was securely belted into the chair.  Nothing bad was going to happen in those fifteen or twenty minutes, so off I went.

Even though I had to cross a double yellow line to get by a one man cherry shaker doing about five miles per hour, I was back within those fifteen minutes.  I walked into the living room, leaned over Carol, kissed her forehead, and said, “I’m back.”

At first she did not respond.

“Did you miss me?” I said.

And here’s the point of my describing this incident.

“Yes,” she said.  “I did.”

Let’s take a closer look at that response.

The first word, the affirmation, does not indicate much.  She could have recognized that she was being asked a yes/no question, and so picked one of the two appropriate responses.

But her unprompted continuation offers a more provocative possibility.  It declares that she knew what I was asking, and wanted to be sure she told me that.

Now, I don’t want to push this analysis too far.  My question was not serious, having been gone for so short a time.  My voice might have indicated that I was teasing her.

But I will go this far in the context of my attempts to imagine her brain’s activity to suggest that she moves back and forth between a connect and disconnect with the here and now.

As do we all.  Only for those of us not afflicted with dementia we are much more in tune with the hear and now, even when our minds, or part of our minds, are somewhere else.

I guess my question for Carol is where her mind is when it is so fully disconnected from the here and now.  It is somewhere.

But where is that somewhere?

Sunday night after a quiet weekend interrupted by virtually no human contact.  I believe I say that almost every time I sit down to work after a weekend.  However, the repetition doesn’t make that observation any the less true.

And as usual, the only face to face interaction this weekend occurred on my Sunday morning trip to the store.  I arrived a little later than usual, partly by design, and was rewarded by finding out that the Times had just arrived.  I miss reading from the physical paper rather than following links on my computer screen.  I find I dig deeper when I have all those sections sitting in my lap.

While in the store I checked, as I do only very occasionally, to see the status of the copies of my books being offered for sale, hoping to attract the attention of the summer visitors as the locals have already had ample opportunity to purchase them.  I noticed that the books were hidden behind a cart laden with ears of corn.  There is a metaphor lurking in this situation, but I haven’t discovered it.  Anyway I alerted the regular clerk who moved the cart so that my titles were again visible.

I have been exploring what I imagine to be the interior of Carol’s brain.  I have concluded that it is an active place, a workshop of ideas, and/or memories that prompt responses such as a sudden, inexplicable burst of laughter as if she had told herself a joke or just remembered something amusing.  At other times, she seems to be forming words but they are not clearly enough articulated for me to hear them.

What I want to add to this exploration is recognition of  her marvelous imagination that provided her the material for her stories.  I think it likely that her imagination continues to generate ideas even in her present impaired state.  Why would it not?  Why would it shut down?

Quite often her facial expression certainly looks as though she is deep in thought.  True, I sometimes think she is focused on the music that is coming from the radio.  But that is not adequate explanation for that expression, which also does occur absent any music reaching her ears.

Something very intense and clear is going on behind that expression.  I will never know what that something is, can’t even begin to make a guess.

Other than to be reasonably sure that whatever it is, it is the product of that same powerful imagination out of which arose her stories.

And speaking of her stories leads to my very recent decision to see about getting them collected into a book, a project we had, in fact, been working on when she got sick.

Tired. Will pick this up when next write.

Tuesday night.  Usual shopping day Carol has been eating with more appetite these past few days, and that is a good thing.

Yesterday, I got on the treadmill for the first time in probably almost two years.  I have a felt need to get back into regular exercise and hope to be able to continue.  Part of the problem is the location of the treadmill in the furnace room in the basement.  I like to exercise with music and I’m concerned about being down there with my music on for forty-five minutes or so.  I know I am exaggerating the risk and might even be using it as an excuse not to exercise.  A more legitimate impediment to my doing exercise is lack of energy or the need  at times to just chill out.  I have checked into buying a folding stationary bike to be used in the living room within sight of Carol’s bed.

All of this speaks to the problem of finding my footing in these difficult circumstances.

I have begun making inquiries concerning the publication of Carol’s stories by sending the beginning of the MS containing the first two stories to readers associated with Mission Point Press, which published my recent books.  Not surprisingly both these readers wrote back with strong praise for the stories.

As they should.

I will also get in touch with another well-established local writer who has connections with a university press, which would probably provide wider distribution and perhaps more recognition.

Which these stories very much deserve.

Returning to the question of Carol’s mental activity now, I wonder if she is still exercising her imagination to write new stories.  Sometimes it seems that she is deep in thought about something.  If I need her attention on those occasions I have to call her name a couple of times until she starts, and then responds with a look on her face as though I have pulled her back from the place to which her mind had carried her.

Other times, she suddenly laughs as though having remembered a joke.

Or perhaps has just created one.

Of course, I will never know.

And I deeply regret that there will not be any more of her wonderfully imagined connections to the natural world in which she grew up, the waters of the bay, the farmland carved out of the rolling hills, the flowers and fauna, all of which was so vivid in her stories that the reader is transported into that world.

That world is peopled by the characters she places there, Native Americans, some wise, some comic, or the young farm girl in some of them, no doubt a stand in for herself looking to move out beyond the borders of that environment.

And always a search for, and insistence on, basic decency, her declared intention being to use her stories to instruct us on how we should live.

So sad that,at best, the new incarnations of that fictional world remain locked in a mind that can no longer birth them into the present for us to enjoy and appreciate.

In a strange kind of way that thought, the idea that not only I, but the larger world, suffers a significant loss as a result of her disease, provides a level of comfort to me.

Being robbed of her talent the world can join me in regretting her sliding into the unreachable depths of dementia.

Small comfort indeed.

But I’ll take it.

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3 Responses to Did You Miss Me?

  1. Kathleen flores says:

    I remember her laugh. Or should I say, her chuckle? If you put her stories together into a book , let me know where I can get it.

  2. Wendy Warren says:

    I love this post, Steve. I often wondered what was going on in Gary’s mind.

  3. trudy carpenter says:

    I want buy her story collection too. Please keep us posted.

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