Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For husband lost to dementia, his memory gone, her love remains

A neighbor of ours is suffering from progressive dementia. What a cruel condition it is. His wife is suffering, too, for a number of reasons. We see this struggle daily and, because they are friends and they live right next door, we really can't avoid it. In saying that, I realize I imply that we would rather be able to avoid it.

Along with everyone else our age, we fear memory loss. Every time either of us forgets something, we worry. Is this the beginning? Am I going gaga? (I don't mean Lady Gaga.)

I have a good memory (so far). I remember lots of things from my very early childhood. Darling Husband is always surprised at how much I remember and in what detail. He has a pretty good memory, but needs a bit of prodding to remember stuff from when he was a kid. These days he's alarmed when he forgets anything; afraid that it could be the onset of dementia. I reassure him that everyone forgets stuff, even young people. Sure. I forget stuff, too. But eventually whatever it is surfaces into consciousness and I purposefully vow to myself that I won't forget THAT again. And I don't. Then, it's something else. Oh well.

But with dementia, when it's gone it's really gone. Whole big chunks are gone. Not just early memories, but important stuff like "Where am I? What's your name again?" It seems to be unending confusion. For our neighbor's wife, not only has her partner forgotten most of their life together, but he's in constant danger to one degree or another. Will he wander off while she's taking a bath? Will he turn on the stove and then walk away?

It's unfortunate. He has always had a sunny disposition, but even the sunniest among us get frustrated and angry about the inability to perceive any context for the here-and-now.

Our amazing brains construct a lifelong chronology of our experiences that's unique to each individual and it isn't always a reliably factual record. My mother and I both had a very clear memory of a little stray dog that turned up at our house when I was about 6 years old. Her recollection is of a black dog, but mine is taffy-colored. I have always argued that it must have been taffy-colored and that she must have called it that, because I wouldn't have called it taffy-colored at that age. What color is taffy? I probably would have said it was tan. She didn't buy my story. Her memory said the dog was black.

Our neighbor remembers the Korean War … only the Korean War. Sometimes he seems perfectly lucid; two minutes later he's back in the '50s. He doesn't just forget the name of someone he used to know, he walks around with no idea where he is or how he got there.

His wife protects him and grieves for him at the same time. She loves and cares for a life partner who isn't there. The trouble is, he isn't really anywhere.

Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral Road, No. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.

For husband lost to dementia, his memory gone, her love remains 04/23/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 6:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Val Kilmer says he's canceling his Tampa Bay Comic Con appearance

    Blogs

    Val Kilmer and the Tampa Bay Comic Con announced today that the Batman, Tombstone and Willow star has canceled his appearance at the convention in Tampa this weekend. 

    Val Kilmer has canceled his appearance at Tampa Bay Comic Con.
  2. Brain study examined 111 former NFL players. Only one didn't have CTE.

    Storm

    Researchers studying the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy found that 99 percent of the brains donated by families of former NFL players showed signs of the neurodegenerative disease, according to a new study published Tuesday.

    In this 1974 file photo, Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler looks to pass. Research on the brains of 202 former football players has confirmed what many feared in life _ evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a devastating disease in nearly all the samples, from athletes in the NFL, college and even high school. Stabler is among the cases previously reported. (AP Photo/File)
  3. Two-vehicle collision leaves driver dead, another with serious injuries

    Accidents

    SAN ANTONIO — A two-vehicle collision Tuesday morning in Pasco County left one person dead and another with serious injuries.

  4. Bob Graham says Trump appears to be pushing Jeff Sessions aside to get at Robert Mueller

    Blogs

    WASHINGTON - President Trump's attack on Attorney General Jeff Sessions is "unseemly" and without precedent, former Florida Sen. Bob Graham said this morning. 

    Former Sen. Bob Graham on CNN
  5. Innovocative Theatre company debuts with workmanlike production of 'Proof'

    Stage

    TAMPA — A new company debuts with Proof, David Auburn's Pulitzer-winning play. Innovocative Theatre, founded by Dunedin native Staci Sabarsky, is currently running productions out of Stageworks Theatre space. Sabarsky also directs and performs in the show.

    Dennis Duggan plays Robert Marie-Claude Tremblay plays Catherine in Innovocative Theatre's first production, Proof, by David Auburn. Photo courtesy of Staci Sabarsky.