I arrived at Ethel’s door one Thursday afternoon.
After a long pause (which made me guess she’d been taking a nap), she opened the door and smiled when she saw me. “Come in! Come in, honey!”
Before I had a chance to sit down she started showing me the quilt she’d made many years earlier. “The binding is all frayed. I have to put a new binding on it.”
That was a perfectly “normal” thing to say and show me. But the thing is, Ethel shows me the same quilt and makes the same comments about the binding every week.
She also tells me each time that she has two framed pictures of Jesus in her room, and she points them out to me.
In addition, she tells me that the two angels over her bed were supposed to have been centered but they weren’t because there wouldn’t have been enough room for her walker. (I never could understand that, but she always says it.)
She tells me that the two angels over her bed were supposed to have been centered.
As I’ve mentioned before, I volunteer to visit some ladies with Alzheimer’s at Clare Bridge, Brookdale Senior Living‘s memory care facility. Ethel is one of “My Ladies.”
Since I’ve been visiting I’ve learned that most of “My Ladies” have stories they tell me every time. My assumption is that these stories are deepfully meaningful to them and frequently on their minds.
Perhaps Ethel’s story about the binding gives us a clue that sewing was very important in her life. Similarly, the pictures of Jesus belie her strong religious foundation.
Finally, I wonder if the story about the angels not only reveals her religious beliefs but perhaps also a streak of obsessive compulsiveness – wanting everything to be lined up and perfectly centered.
It’s almost as though she’s embarrassed and has to explain the lack of symmetry to me.
Of course “My Ladies” don’t remember they’ve told me their stories before; each time is like the first. And I always respond as though it’s the first time I’ve heard them.
Here are a few other stories I have the pleasure of hearing every week:
Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy
Marie's book tells the powerful 30-year love story of a young American woman and a delightfully eccentric Romanian gentleman and scholar, Edward Theodoru, PhD. A compelling love story, this award-winning book illustrates solutions to 14 specific problems that typically arise when caring for a person with dementia – from denial, diagnosis and difficult behaviors to nursing home and hospice care.
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