There is a novel called The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks about a couple who have been together for a long, long time. She has forgotten much and has almost forgotten him, but as he retells their story, she sometimes remembers.
That is fiction, but today I saw the real.
It was a difficult decision to bring her to this place, but when there was little sleep for either of them, and the wandering off got more dangerous – it was time.
He tells us that one truth he’s learned is that they are indeed “one”. A piece of him remains behind as he leaves her there each evening. He returns each morning, rested and knowing she has been kept safe through the night.
He explains her limitations in conversation to her old friends – my parents. She is pleased to see them and recognizes them right away.
He relays a bit of the humor in the conversations that happen. When he told someone that he has been married to her for 59 years, she looked up and said “better luck next time.”
He visits his old friend (my dad) and eventually leaves for a bit to take him for a short ride in his car. After they leave, she wanders out of her room and down the hall. As she is walked back into her room, she goes to the window. She is looking for him.
The brief drive is done and she looks out the window and sees him step out of the car. She is immediately more animated but seems a bit unsettled and states emphatically as she points – “That’s Merle. That’s my husband.” She wants to get to him. She wants us to help him find his way back to her. She asks us to help him find the door to get back in.
He returns to her room and his gentleness is calming. She holds on to his arm. She is peaceful.
Dementia has stolen away much from the final years they thought they’d have as equals.
But as he stated at the beginning of our visit – they are one. He holds the memories for both of them. He remains faithful to his wife, sweetly tending to her, protecting her. The rings placed 59 years ago remain on the aging fingers, symbols of vows honored.
Today I witnessed love tangible.