The last several weeks have been fairly smooth sailing, with lots of pleasant social interactions. A couple of weeks ago we spent the night with one of my sisters so that she and I could give a talk about hiking at the tiny community library in their town. She and I had hiked half the AT some years ago, and she had gotten an invitation to present this talk as a part of the community events calendar.
When the time came, J was in a good mood and definitely up for the trip, and the whole thing worked out very well. I qualify every commitment with the caveat that it depends on how J is doing, if I/we can get away as planned – this was wonderful. We got to their house in the afternoon, and after an early supper headed out into the clear, cold fall night to see who might come out to hear us.
The little library was packed to the gills with about 50 curious people, and we had brought books and gear and slides and packing lists to illustrate our talk. We had an hour or so to talk, and a half hour for questions – the time flew by, and we were gratified by the attentive audience and great questions they asked.
We stayed the night with my sister and her husband, and drove home the next day. Both J and I were cheered by the success of the talk, and just the fun and novelty of the whole experience. I think it did me good to spend that time thinking and talking about something from my “other life” – things in the last few years are so different, it’s like another universe, almost.
Lots of social stuff popped up since then, and the warm and happy energy continued. Lunch with old friends, a dinner with friends who were heading south for the winter, the monthly lunch with the ladies from our development, a niece coming for an overnight, and so forth. All of these were situations in which J could and did function pretty well, so we both had “successful” experiences. And that is a great feeling.
On another topic: things came to a head with my trying to introduce companion services to J, and to have her feel like that is a good thing. Despite saying that she likes R, the companion person from the local agency, and despite having had some good times when we met and worked together this fall, I have not been able to move the relationship into true companioning, such that I can regularly go out and have J enjoy R’s company during that time.
I tried a different approach last week, and declared that I was tired and would prefer to just enjoy ourselves with R during her time with us. In the service of doing that, we sat down and played RummiCube together – teaching R how to play, and having a couple of good games and what felt to me like a lot of fun. J is good at this game, and remains so even with the memory loss that affects other dimensions of her life. Later that afternoon, after R had left, J remarked to me in an arch tone of voice how surprised she was that just as she was going to hand R the Ajax cleanser and point her towards the bathtub, she found herself playing RummiCube….
Here’s where I realized that basically J only accepts R as a cleaner/chore-doer, and simply is not able to tolerate “companion” as her role. So, back to square one, I called the agency and will meet with the director soon, and hope to figure another approach to this challenge. Perhaps we’ll try another companion, in case there is a conflict wiht R that J doesn’t acknowledge. Or something. But the progress I had hoped to make toward having two afternoons a week, 3 or 4 hours each, that I could count on being able to go out – well, it’s not yet happening.
I can still go out for an hour or so here and there thru the week, but longer and more regular periods would be welcome, and perhaps also good for J as a change from just the two of us together all week long. She still goes to the gym for an hour, up to twice a week, some weeks, and has a monthly book group and recorder group. I do my best to think of other ways to get out of the house – doing the grocery shopping, going to the farmer’s market, taking walks here and at various pretty places around the area, meeting up with friends, inviting people over, and including J in everything I can think of that she might enjoy. But there is still room for more regular activities.
There are resources I haven’t looked at yet – the respite program at a nearby church, for instance, that I need to go take a look at and set up a time for us to visit together. Meantime, we are enjoying the crisp weather, the beautiful late fall look to things, and the good walking that still lingers – pretty soon, slush, snow, ice and unplowed sidewalks will influence that endeavor…!