You might want to get out the tissues.
I admit that I suffer from separation anxiety. That’s a panicky feeling you get when someone leaves you, but usually for a good reason, like a child going off to college or finally moving into their own place. Something is now missing that was always there before. Even though the separation is not permanent, for those of us who have SA, it is still very hard to endure the emptiness after temporarily saying good-bye.
It recently occurred to me that there are many types of good-bye. All are more devastating than my SA. But the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease produces the longest good-bye of all. An insidious invader that slowly creeps into the brain, then lies low only to return with a certain vengeance, is a feared diagnosis some say is second only to cancer.
I remember someone I knew well who would talk to me one minute and then ask me who I was the next. At first, it’s a little weird because real communication seemed to be taking place. Just like old times. Then, all of a sudden, what you thought was real, wasn’t. I often wondered how it might have felt to the person with Alzheimer’s. Did they sense something was odd, too?
I know a lovely woman, selfless in her dedication to making other’s lives better, who has started to ‘forget’. At eighty-four, I think she deserves some slack. But the doctors don’t agree and have given the family the grim news. It will likely take some time, they warn, but advise the family to make the most of ‘right now’ because ‘later’ may not arrive in the way they think.
Burned into my mind’s eye is the image of a dedicated husband of 64 years combing the hair of this once meticulous woman who today is staring into nothingness.
“I say good-bye to her every day and tell her how much I love her”, he says. And I notice that he, too, is staring into nothingness.
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