I missed my mother and I missed being around people who have Alzheimer’s. So I volunteered to visit people living in a memory care unit.
Donna greeted me warmly. She wore a man’s plaid shirt, black sweat pants and worn tennis shoes. She was lean and restless, her hands a nest one moment and a flying bird the next.
“She likes to talk,” was all the staff told me.
She noticed my orange shirt and I told her it was seersucker.
“Yes, he had a suit,” she said. Her gaze was earnest and her words seemed urgent. Listening to her was an archaeological experience: hills of dust and sand with an occasional gem of a multi-syllable word.
“I knew they needed to triangulate,” she told me. “But then the 466 of them fell into the 375.”
She looked into my eyes as she spoke and I tried to intuit what she was telling me.
The aide who introduced me hadn’t known anything about Donna’s background and I wondered if she’d been an accountant, manager, or entrepreneur.
“How did you feel about that triangulation?” I asked.
”Tell me more about that.”
She offered a stream of eroded words, with major letters worn away.
As we talked, I felt I was dog paddling through rough seas, clinging onto whole words and struggling to understand her. But maybe I was trying too hard.
At the end of her time together, she smiled.
“Good,” she said. “This was good.”
Maybe it was enough for her to talk and have a dedicated listener.
Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.