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There were four of us for Thanksgiving dinner. Sid and I were joined by my cousin, who has been Sid’s friend since they were 6 years old , and my cousin’s wife, who has been my friend , my cousin, my “sister”, since we were all married within a month of each other, 37 years ago.

It has been about 15 years since the automobile accident  in which she sustained a brain injury. Her injury was not progressive; she will not get worse with time, but the damage was done. She spent years “rehabilitating”- learning strategies to help her live her life to the fullest. She is a remarkable woman, who knows her capabilities; arranges her life and schedules so she can live in peace and harmony, and uses every strategy she was taught to make it all work. Because of this experience, she has a perspective on Sid’s illness and how it affects him emotionally, that neither I, nor anyone else who has not experienced brain dysfunction, could ever comprehend.

Although the four of us spend at least once a week together, it usually works out that she and I “girl chat” , and Sid and my cousin “guy chat” .  Sometimes she talks to Sid, offering him support and encouragement, but yesterday was different. I brought up the subject of the 11/19/07 Blog – that Sid wanted to keep his brain active and engaged, and that his method for that was to request that I tell him every time he had “already asked me that question”; that I tell him that “we already had that discussion”. It is his way of trying to trigger his memory, which as I said in the Blog, is not working anymore.

Her advice to him was to stop frustrating himself. Instead of dictating an alternative solution, she started to talk to Sid. To watch her interact with him, and to listen to her converse with him, was a lesson in calmness and patience. There was no preaching; no teaching; no lecturing (as I was so ashamed to realize I do too often). They talked about how he still reads the paper cover to cover every day, and she asked him what he felt was important in the news that day. He (mostly) accurately relayed a story in the paper that particularly interested him. They discussed it. Her voice was quiet and soothing. When they were finished, she praised him for remembering something he had read hours ago, and told him that he had just been “exercising”  his brain through their conversation. Then she said to both of us, “Wasn’t that better than frustrating both of you by Joan continually telling you she had told you about that story 3 times today, and you wracking your brain trying to remember it?”

In that moment, a fog enveloping my head dissipated, and I saw clearly just how impatient, “bossy” , and judgmental I have been towards my husband. With the stresses and strains of living with Alzheimer’s Disease 24/7, I cannot promise that I can be as gentle and relaxed with him all of the time, as she was with him yesterday, but I can certainly do better than I have been.  


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