My Bert calls me Mama.
“I am not your mother. I am your wife”
“I know.” he says.
“So, why do you call me Mama?”
“You are my Mama because you take care of me.” This is no longer a momentary lapse; it is a delusion. My name alternates between ‘my Paula, my wife and Mama.’ I presume that since I go from Alzheimer’s world to the real world perhaps my Bert goes from reality to delusion and back again in much the same way. I do not know. I doubt the transition from Mama to wife means anything to my Bert. I do know that to him I am Mama in that juncture of time. When he calls me my wife or my Paula it is the truth, the reality of that moment.
The only significance in those moments is that whatever he calls me he knows who I am. He has not forgotten me and in fact has more cognition, where our relationship is concerned, in his world in that I am not one or the other but a composite of the roles I fulfill. He does recognize that I am wife and mother and also just Paula. What do I do? Nothing.
We are on our way home. My Bert has spent the day at his ‘club’. He was happy, telling me that ‘They all like me and they tease me’. Teasing will always get a positive response from Bert as he has a PhD in teasing. A soft white splatter, then some more hit the windshield. Omigosh. I am not ready for winter.
“Look, it is snowing. It is too early for snow.” I sigh.
My Bert leans forward and says: “Don’t worry, it’s only hard water.” His perspicacity generates a chuckle. I wonder if I should pass on this definition to a meteorological agency as another descriptive word for snow. It does sound logical doesn’t it? Think of ice. That is definitely hard water.
* * *
My Bert lost his hearing aids. If I have told him once I have told him a hundred times to leave his hearing aids in until I remove them. Well, that goes in one ear and out the other, hearing aids in place or not. I look in all the locations that would seem logical for him to put them. Then I look in some unusual places. I enter Alzheimer’s World and begin to look in the most implausible places imaginable. No hearing aid. I remember the bread knife in the washing machine and begin the search again.
Although I know the hearing aids had to be somewhere in the home I cannot find them. I give up, realizing Alzheimer’s world has defeated me. I call, order a new set and make the appointment to have them fitted in three weeks.
The loss of the hearing aids becomes a subject of conversation. This happens more frequently than you may think. I heard of them being in shoes, in a flower pot and other such interesting but bizarre places. It makes for a good laugh but I am thinking of the replacement cost and wondering how to ensure I do not have to do a repeat. Three days before the appointment I open the freezer, root around to find what I need and right in the corner there is a pair of twisted together, flesh-coloured objects winking at me. You guessed it. The hearing aids. Of course they are no good anymore. My Bert has frozen his ears off…well the hearing aids.
* * *
A new Personal Support Worker (PSW) is coming to get my Bert ready for the day. It is not the usual male aide but a woman. I am unsure how my Bert will respond to this. She arrives. We all go to the bathroom. I will hang around just in case. I call out cheerfully:
“OK, Love, time for your bath.” My Bert looks at me balefully and I am mentally preparing what to say if he balks. He harrumphs as only he can, begins to undress and says: ” Why do I need two people to give me a bath?” The PSW is marvellous she laughs and says:
“You are so lucky; you have two beautiful women to help you.” Without batting an eye and with a devilish grin my Bert turns around and says: “Want to change places?”
We all burst into laughter. I leave them to it.
The Meander: As long as I can laugh with my Bert at the vagaries of this dreadful disease, we remain its masters. I had no idea that Alzheimer disease could provide so many instances of comic relief. I hope we have many more moments of merriment at its expense.