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.”
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.