This I Believe

gail - new york, New York
Entered on March 16, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: illness

I Never Met Mel R.

I never met the Mel R. that most people knew. I was introduced to Mel after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. I can only conjecture about his former persona—my belief is that he was very bright, loquacious, funny, talented, caring, with a positive outlook on life. But I don’t really know.… his brain was already compromised when I met him.

My companion, Simon, who was also afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease, and I spent a lot of time with Mel and his significant other. Caregiving was made a bit easier by having someone to share with who understood the heartbreak and realities of this disease—we went to movies, out to eat, to museums, and just visited a lot. Their company was a blessing as well as an additional heartache. Watching the disintegration of human beings you care about is very difficult.

The Mel I knew played the harmonica. The harmonica was always being pulled out of that right pants pocket to be played for short periods of time. He played in a harmonica musical group that performed in various public places. As time moved on and memory lapses became more severe, he needed prompting from his fellow musicians. Did he know that he was now unable to participate without their caring assistance? I would like to believe that he was not aware of that fact.

He verbalized a lot…I can almost hear his voice….it was that circular repetition that made it obvious that something significant had affected his life. One wonders if he knew that he was constantly repeating everything he said…I hope not.

When does strength become stupidity?….I took Mel and Simon, to a state park one Sunday so that his significant other could have some free time to attend a baby shower being held for a friend. The three of us walked through the park, looking at the trees, flowers, and horses, listening to the birds and other sounds, and all of us talking constantly. We were there for a number of hours. Nothing untoward happened, but I sometimes wonder about the sanity of the adventure. Mel’s repetitive banter was a little more wearing than usual, only because of the length of time spent together, and because I had no other adult with whom to converse. It was a pleasant afternoon and a memory that I will always treasure.

I believe Mel’s journey through Alzheimer’s Disease was one of the most difficult that I have known. I only hope that his brain was compromised enough so that he had no idea of how he behaved. It would seem to be extremely unfair that one would be forced to be afflicted with a disease and then would have to be mentally tortured by it. Since we have so little access to a patient’s cognitive thinking once they are in the later stages of Alzheimer’s, we have little way of knowing what they know and what they feel.

I miss Mel, but I have to believe that he is now at peace.

I wish his devoted, tireless, unfailing, wonderful companion peace also.

She has earned it.