February 2, 2021
Most of the world is practicing social distancing, a new and extremely difficult experience for humans, who it is said cannot survive without human contact and communication. As witnessed by the worst punishment foisted on a prisoner—solitary confinement—and the detrimental decline it can have on the elderly and disabled.
Every day I am grateful for Keith, especially now during Covid isolation. Physically I could not stay in my home without him, as we live in a large house atop a high bluff. The driveway is long and steep, which Keith is diligent about keeping plowed and clear of snow and ice. But the driveway isn’t what keeps people at a distance—it is Covid isolation.
I long for in-person visits and try not to think about when this practice of distancing will come to a welcomed end.
Still, my daughter Beth and I have been able to take long walks outdoors, one means of keeping in touch. On these recent below-zero days we had to pause this practice, knowing this too shall pass, and we will resume as soon as weather is tolerable. She is the only person I currently see face to face beside Keith. In March my son Steven is booked to fly here for a five-day visit. He has received his vaccination, nevertheless, we will continue to be cautious. And a weekly delight has been zooming with our family in Estonia and seeing our four-year old great grandchild show us how she can dance.
As I’ve written before, it is a scientific fact that human babies will not thrive without being touched, and I believe this is also true of human adults. I am extremely grateful to have Keith, not only to converse with but making it possible I can stay in my own home. To my surprise we haven’t run out of topics to discuss—even as our social life is nearly nonexistent. However, once in a while a friend will stop by just to see how we are doing and will then stay for a very welcomed, long social-distanced visit. We have renewed our practice of reading a book together, enjoying a favorite show on TV, and walking our dogs—even on frigid winter days. We like caring for our chickens and are always amused as they awkwardly ‘waddle-run’ to Keith when he arrives to feed them meal worms.
As I’m rereading what I just wrote, I’m fairly sure I’ve written much of this before—for which I apologize. Repeating is a frequent aspect of how I experience dementia. I can ask Keith the same question within minutes of him having answered, or attempt to tell a story or share a remembrance and stop mid-way because I’ve lost track of what I wanted to say. I accept this as part of the disease, but not without resentment, a tinge of sorrow, concern, and fear of “is my disease progressing?” I often lie awake at night wondering how more advanced stages of “not knowing” will feel. Will I be aware and conscious of the fact that I don’t know what I should remember, like my daughter and son’s names or the names of friends? Will I be aware that I no longer care about or am capable of my daily grooming or dressing? When these fears arise, I always revisit my time as a hospice volunteer, and my visits with my “two ladies” who had dementia. Every visit was a “new” visit and as time went on, their interest in conversing lessened completely. It was during this time I made my family promise that when I was at the point where I didn’t ask for food, let me go. There is a no justice in keeping the body alive if the mind is nothing but an empty shell.
Please readers, don’t take this as depression, but rather as my strong sense of equanimity and the evolution of life. When it is time, let life evolve as normally as possible—don’t intervene or strive to overcome nature. Let life, and death run their course.