When a person has Alzheimer’s Disease, everyone tends to feel sorry for them…or so they think. In reality, we don’t feel as sorry for the patient as we do for ourselves. The patient doesn’t seem to know that they are forgetting things, at least not after they are a little way into the progression of the disease. In fact, they truly live in an alternate reality, and sometimes it is a much nicer reality than we live in. If someone in their family has passed away, one of the others becomes that person on occasion. That’s how it is with my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg. Her husband, who is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg passed away on May 5, 2013, and yet, she talked to him night before last. Of course, she was talking to her son, my husband, Bob Schulenberg, but he like the rest of her family has adapted to her altered reality, so that night Bob became Walt…if only for a minute, because that is how long it takes for that reality to pass and he becomes Bob again. I suppose people might think that strange, but it is actually kindness. She doesn’t have to grieve. Her deceased loved ones are never gone from her. They are there in the people around her, and she is happy.
My mother-in-law does not notice the passage of time, and if she does, it sometimes seems longer than it was. She might tell you that she hasn’t seen you in a year, when in reality it was the day before. Or she might say that you were just here, when you have been out of town for a week. Time is based on her own perception of it at the time, and that’s ok with me. As long as she’s happy, I’m happy.
As her birthday approached this year, I’ve been telling her that February is almost over. She doesn’t always think that is possible, and I can relate to that. Time really does fly by. So, on Saturday when I told her that her birthday was coming, she said it couldn’t be, because we hadn’t had Christmas yet. Now I would love to tell you that I had a quick come back for that one, but sometimes she catches me off guard. I told her Christmas had passed, and it was February. Thankfully she accepted that answer and the conversation moved forward. Yesterday, as we were waiting for the bus to take her back to the nursing home after he check up with the doctor, I asked her what today was going to be. She didn’t know, so I told her that it was February 28th. She perked up. I asked her what that day was, and she said that it was her birthday. I was pleased at that, so I thought I would take it one step further. I asked her how old she was going to be. She didn’t know, so I suggested that she take a guess. Well, I guess that the moment of clarity was over, because she said, “I’m 50 something.” She was only 36 years off, but it doesn’t really matter anyway, because you’re only as old as you feel…right? Happy birthday Mom!! Have a great day!! We love you!!