Sunday, February 02, 2020

Even harder to write

Last weekend, I spent the day with Kathy in Dekalb. I didn't want to go. It's an hour of travel time each way. I was exhausted by my battle with bronchitis and embarrassed by my coughing fits.

But this day in Dekalb was a gift to me from Kathy. She got us tickets to see Casablanca on the big screen at the village's historic Egyptian Theater. This is something she isn't interested in, she chose to do it for me. She also promised me breakfast. It was very important to her, and my conscience wouldn't let me cancel on her.

It's the first time I spent time with Kathy since November. We've been in touch regularly through social media and email, but not in person. I was shocked Sunday by her mental decline. Kathy's mind retains little. I'm not exaggerating. My day with her was disturbing.

Example: the movie started at 2:00. She knew this. She bought the tickets in advance and was so excited about it, she texted me a photo of them. Yet she insisted I come on the train that arrived in Dekalb at 10:00 AM. That not only meant that this sickly gal had to get up and get going much earlier than I'd intended, it left us four hours before the movie. Turns out she forgot and thought the movie started at noon. She kept asking me, "Now what do you want to do?" As if arriving at 10:00 was my idea.

Example: she told me she was buying me breakfast. Great! Few things make me happier than a good coffee house breakfast. So I was surprised that, when the waitress asked us if we wanted separate checks, she said, "yes." Then she grabbed my check and sniffed in disapproval. "Why would she give us separate checks?"

Example: she forgot a family birthday party. She didn't "connect" that the movie and her great granddaughter's first birthday celebration were both on January 26. After the movie, we went to the party, arriving very late but at least in time to see the cake and sing. I felt terribly out of place, especially since Kathy made it sound as though I was the reason she missed the beginning of the party. And let's not forget, I was coughing on little kids.

There's more, but I can't bear to detail it. It's too depressing.

Kathy is 72. That seems young to me to be battling dementia. I mentioned to her that she should see the doctor. She said she's due to go in April. I intend to remind her.

Her three adult grandchildren are always in and out of her home. They all have keys. The eldest -- the mother of the birthday girl -- even commented on Kathy's forgetfulness. Good naturedly and casually, but it was obvious this was a conversation they'd had before and more than once.

Since her family is there and aware, I don't want to press. Kathy is proud, and I know she would resent my intrusion.

I had dinner and drinks with John this past week to discuss this, and he agrees. He worries about her, too, and will continue to reach out, continue to recommend that she see her doctor. But beyond that, he doesn't see what we can do. He believes that, if we press, Kathy will just withdraw.

President Kennedy observed, after his father's stroke, that "old age is a shipwreck." I get it now.


  1. This makes me sad. You are a good friend. I hope she gets some medication started soon.
    Adult grandchildren with keys...hmmmmm.....

  2. Oh no! I'm sorry to hear about her decline.