Thinking about the project of maintaining a calm atmosphere at home, and how that is no longer a luxury or a by-product but rather the entire objective these days. I think this has become so much more important as J’s ability to learn new things and to remember how to initiate and do once-familiar things has shrunk – all the little elements of a “successful” day pivot on memory. I hadn’t realized this until watching how it works, day by day.
These days I cannot simplify things enough for J to be successful at them – how to turn on the tv, how to make coffee, or how to help with dinner, for example. Each requires the ability to hold in memory a few steps, and in the case of the newish tv, to learn a few new steps. If I am well rested and alert and observant and feeling patient, I can pick out a step or two and offer instruction enough for J to do part of that task successfully. But even then, more often than not there is something about the task that I hadn’t realized was difficult for a memory-impaired person, and the task suddenly becomes a stumbling block rather than an exercise in happy independence.
The idea that a stumbling block or frustration is what gives rise to creativity is basically no longer operative when a person cannot learn new things. What would be an appropriate challenge to present to a grade-school child is only a cruelty to a person who has lost or cannot retain the fund of information necessary to tackle the task.
So, this is how maintaining a calm environment at home became the focus of my day. Each once-familiar task is becoming less familiar to J, and at any moment of the day a new challenge or deficit can be revealed. Some days go along pretty well, then we hit a series of days with more challenges than ever.
The overview on all this is purely mine now. J has no ability to take an overview anymore. Neither she nor the casual observer may recognize an impending challenge to her current ability – so I need to provide that recognition and be ready to modify things so that frustration and fatigue don’t swamp our little boat.
We once had a bank of plans and ideas, large and small, specific and sketched out, much like all long-term couples do – ideas for vacations, plans for home improvement projects, social gatherings to arrange, etc. – and working with this bank of ideas was the meat of our daily life together. It was robustly shared, each of us having ideas and dreams and plans and ways we would go about things and with our own taste and style, competencies and gifts. Although we are very different, we had an easy ability to pull together over the years and so accomplished a lot of what we planned and dreamed.
Life is different now. A calm day is the greatest blessing.