Lunch with Leo
(This was written in 2006, Leo died in 2010, a delightful man)
Had lunch with Leo this Wednesday, and decided to try a new place for lunch. Probably did it more for me than for him, since I am not sure he remembers our trips, at least in a detailed manner. He always responds positively to the new images that he gets from his surroundings, and also likes the music that is played over the speaker system. That day they were playing R & B tunes which he seems to enjoy very much. As usual I had to show him how to use his straw for the tea, but he caught on fast and did alright. As usual I ordered food that he could eat with his hands, and put the silver ware aside except for a fork. Too many utensils confuse him, at least they do when I take him to a new place. After we ordered our food he tried to talk to me. One thing that came thru very strongly was his frustration about not being able to say what he wants to. His stuttering over words, or saying words that he does not mean, is a great source of pain for him.
I know for some people it is best to be forthright with them; it works for William for instance, but I have never tried it with Leo. So I decided to try that approach and see what happens. If my telling him the “whys” caused him more confusion or pain I would drop it and he would soon forget it, so no harm in trying. So I began to tell him about his Alzheimer’s and how it is the cause of his not being able to say what he wants to, also why he can’t name things like he used to do. I also told him that his disease will not go away, but he will always be taken care of, and we will always be able to go out to lunch together.
After I made my little speech, he responded by showing me how happy he was over the explanation, and how it made him feel better. It came out jumbled but I understood. So I then began talking to him about his life, trying to discern if he remembered anything from his past. I brought up his artistic ability, which I think was immense; he did metal sculpture. He let me know that he did not remember, so I told him how much I loved his work, how his sculptures seemed to flow with it smooth edges and caused the eyes to move upward, at least it did for me. Described to him one of his large candelabra’s that was about six feet tall, that had the candles fastened to one piece of mental that gently wound around a center pole, and ended open at the top. It was one of my favorite pieces. I also told him about some of the wall sculptures that he made, also about a show he had in Philadelphia when he was a young man. He became very excited about this knowledge and loved hearing about the part of his life that he had forgotten.
He is so much like a child now, living just in the moment, but happy none the less, and like a child he is open to the truth of the situation, even though he may know that ‘this’ moment will soon be forgotten. I suppose I will have this talk with him every week since it will seem like the first time, but I am glad to know that he enjoys knowing about his now forgotten life. It does not matter that he will forget, what is important is that for a few minutes he was happy before the memory sinks into the ocean of forgetfulness.
One thing that has remained stable with Leo, he was always a very gentle soul, and that remains.