Palo Alto CA 94306
– – – – – – –
Menlo Park CA 94025
Last year, the final draft of my annual letter was written on Jan 28. I said:
Many of you already know that Thea has Alzheimer’s. There is no need to lay the details on you. . . . I can only say that despite all of the down-side of her limitations, she is still the same warm, sweet, wonderful person that I married 64 years ago . . .
But less than 3 weeks later, in an effort to capture the tumultuous feelings in my heart, I sat at my computer and wrote:
Friday, February 16, 2007
Today is the first day of the rest of my life. For 64 years, 1 month, and 13 days, Thea and I had the same permanent address. To be sure, we had periods of separation, but they were always finite. Most notably during the early years of our marriage when I was at sea for months at a time, but also when one of us was sick or when one of us went on a business trip. But always we looked forward to resuming our normal life when we would eat at the same table and sleep in the same bed.Now, it is different. This evening I will sit alone at our kitchen table, knowing that Thea has already eaten her supper at Canyon House. Tonight I will crawl alone into our double bed, knowing that Thea has already been tucked into her new single bed at Canyon House. Tomorrow morning I will wake up alone and eat breakfast alone. And this pattern will be repeated day after day for the rest of my life.
At eleven o’clock this morning, my daughter Lisa and I drove Thea to her new home for Senior Assisted Living: Canyon House. A week’s worth of clothing – which hardly made a noticeable gap in her “half” of the clothes closet or in her bureau drawers; her favorite chair from our living room; one of her mother’s paintings and a couple of family photos. That’s all she has with her now to remind her of her past life. All else is left here to remind me.
Why, why did we make this drastic change? I have mentioned before that her Alzheimer’s was progressing, i. e. getting worse. It had reached a point where I no longer felt confident handling it alone. I was already hiring considerable help, but I couldn’t figure out how I could increase that in ways that would really help.
Now it is January 16, 2008. I need hardly say that it was an agonizing decision when I made it 11 months ago. I had to make trade-offs. What was best for Thea? What was best for me? What was best for my daughter Lisa and her three teenagers who live only a mile away? I had help from my family, from my friends, from our doctor, from the people at the Avenidas Senior Day Health Center where Thea was going 3 days a week, from the people at the 3 Senior Assisted Living places that Lisa and I interviewed. But ultimately I had to make the decision – and I did. Of course, I’ve questioned it since, but I always come up with the same answer.
Thea is given far better physical care than I could give her. The staff at Canyon house are amazing for their kindness, care, and love. I have no way of knowing what it is like inside her mind, but externally she seems fully accepting of her changed condition. I visit almost every day for an hour or so. She is always glad to see me; she knows my name and that I’m her husband. But when I kiss her cheek and say, “See you tomorrow,” she just repeats, “See you tomorrow,” and doesn’t even follow me with her eyes as I walk away.
Growing old is not for sissies.
It has been 20 years since my Mother died and I became the oldest of my tribe. But new names keep appearing at the other end of the scale.
On June 11, grand-daughter April Hodge Greenberg “married” her partner Tessa at a religious ceremony, and changed her name to April Hodge Silver. Welcome to my family, Tessa Blakely Silver, nee Tessa Blakely.
April invited to me to give an “Eighth Blessing”, just as her sister Myriam had done last year –
I am proud and pleased to be here as April’s oldest living relative. My only regret on this joyous occasion is that April’s grandmother, my wife Thea, is unable to join us in person to share it. She is here in spirit, however, and I would like to read a short poem that she wrote to me on my 60th birthday. I offer it as a blessing, as a wish, and as grandparental advice in the hope that April and Tessa may have as long and as happy a marriage as ours has been.
Saturday Night – – Birthday Eve
By Thea Drell Hodge
Once I thought that love
“Kiss me quick.”
I was wrong.
Love is usually a very comfortable
Way of life. A cozy heart,
Kisses on the cheek,
“Wear your rubbers, wear your scarf.”
And what keeps love so cozy?
The fact that every so often love is
Tempestuous, tumultuous . . .
“Kiss me quick.”
Finally, my granddaughter Myriam (who married Mikey in August 2006) is obviously pregnant and expecting delivery any week now.
As for me – I’m still here! I still take hikes with my daughter – and I feel I’m getting even for all those years when I had to slow my pace for her sake. I still enjoy my food and my daily glass of wine. I frequent the Stanford Movie Theatre with its program of old classics – “You Can’t Take it with You”, “Arsenic and Old Lace “, “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” – sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend. Thespian play-reading has expanded to a total of 4 evenings a month with more than 2 dozen total participants. And I go to San Francisco once a month for a meeting of the Pocket Opera Board. Life’s cup is still half-full – even as that “half” grows smaller.
And whether your halves are large or small, may you enjoy them to the fullest in the coming year,