A Spark of Joy so Let’s Dance

Joy of joys!

If you’ve been following my series on “The Face of Dementia” you will know that since Bill went into the nursing home his eyes constantly questioned my judgement. It’s about three months or so since he was admitted. He no longer looks at me suspiciously and has accepted the fact that this is his new home. He also knows that I will pick him up often. In fact, I am able to pick him up every day and bring him back at 4PM and he is fine with that. In fact, he keeps reminding me of the time as the countdown continues until we get into the car. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I first put him in the nursing home. We both cried a lot, and his pleading eyes left me feeling guilty each time we had to say good-bye. My friends kept telling me to hang in there because they knew how his being home affected me. I was living on anti-anxiety pills.

My mother had Alzheimer’s and when I put her in a nursing home; she already didn’t know what was going on. Clearly she did not know as her remark when we walked through the door of the locked wing was “Oh, this is so beautiful.” Now I knew for sure that her mind was gone. She had come to a nursing home from an upscale assisted living facility, and the nursing home was not nearly as nice as the assisted living had been. Even though the nursing home in our town was not as nice, it was very pleasant, and the staff very helpful and loving. There were no odors in any of the wings of this nursing home. In the North Wing, the dementia unit, the space and number of rooms it has is much less. They also have their own dining room

Bill is in this wing also, and has adjusted to being there. The reason I told about my mother is to compare the two, and it’s like apples and oranges. A marriage mate is far more difficult to put into a nursing home than a parent. You were raised by your parent, but you probably left home in your teens. A mate, you have shared your life with for many years. In our case, 28 years, you are far more emotionally attached to your mate than to a parent. (I hope you all are.) In any case it is far more traumatic than with a parent.

Bill is adjusting far better than I ever thought he would. Only now am I able to pick him up every day, I am no longer overly stressed. There was a shindig at the home last Friday. We had a good time. The country music they played got Bill going. He had a new spark in his eyes as we danced. Of course, that is another story. I’ll take that new spark. I will revel in that new spark when he smiles at me, when we spend time with each other. When we talk, when we hold hands and walk, I will revel in every smile, and every sparkle in his eyes each and every time.

Not every time I see him will he smile and that new sparkle will be there, but I am not fooled by this kind of behavior for I know the time will come when his eyes will be blank once again, his smile will fade away, and he finally will no longer remember me. This happens, day by unannounced day. For now, I will take these fine days while his eyes have a mischievous spark, and his smile is sincere. I will take today and cherish it even after it all stops.

Dance? Why, Thank You Sir

When I saw a flyer sitting on the counter at the nursing station one day while I was waiting for Bill to get ready, I just knew this would be something Bill and I would be interested in going to. There was going to be a shindig at the nursing home. Everyone and their families were invited. There would be a Country Western Band from 2-4pm. A petting zoo would be set up between 4-6pm which consisted of a skunk, kangaroo, porcupine, camel, capybara, and some other more common animals to our part of the world.

Of course there would also be hot dogs, soda, cotton candy, and a few other choices of usual carnival food items. We went to this as it was set up in the driveway of the nursing home. I didn’t get there until 3pm since my home care worker came that day and wasn’t done until 2:30.

When I got there, the band was playing in the main dining room and Bill was just being escorted back to his wing so I told the aide that we would like to go over and listen to the band. We walked back over to the main building and could hear the music coming from the dining area. I told Bill that I’d like to go and listen to them and we began to go down the hallway. The closer we got to the dining room, the louder the music. I suggested that we go listen to it in the visiting room in the front. Bill agreed and we started to walk back the way we came.

We hadn’t gotten very far; Bill stopped, took my cane, set it aside and said, “Let’s dance!” Just imagine my surprise at that since in our 28 years of marriage we had never danced. Not even at weddings would he dance! Now that I can’t keep my balance very well, hence the cane, he wanted to dance. “Okay, I replied let’s dance!”

There we were, just dancing our hearts out and both of us smiling from ear to ear oblivious as to what was going on around us. Once in a while I did notice the ones that could see down the hallway from the dining room were just watching us instead of the band and smiling too. Some of the family members made remarks such as, “Oh look, they’re dancing, isn’t that just adorable?” and, “Isn’t that precious?” Several stopped and watched for a few moments smiling then walked on. I thought to myself, “Yep, we’re old,” and once again turned my attention to dance with my husband. Bill grinned from ear to ear, and was oblivious as to anything going on around us. I just wanted to be in the moment with my husband while he was happy as he was before this monster overtook him.

I know it used to make me smile too when I’d see older people dancing or walking hand in hand down the sidewalk. It is smiling and worthy of an “Oh, isn’t that just precious?” The literal translation of those types of statements is, “Isn’t that nice an older couple is still close and intimate? They want to and can do things that they did when they were younger. I hope I am that happy at their age.” Doesn’t that make you smile too?

The next time you see an older couple dancing together as if they were one, ice skating as only a couple that has been married for years can do, walking hand in hand and talking, perhaps even giggling at a memory only they share, think to yourself, “Isn’t that precious, and isn’t that adorable?” Happy marriages filled with laughter, trust, love of a lifetime, intimacy, and gracefulness in old age. I hope that I am able to find that in my life.