The Great Forgetting

by | Dec 21, 2021

My partner of the last 20 years entered memory care last April.  Don had been in assisted living in a senior apartment. The move to memory care was triggered by his night-wandering, a situation that can’t be tolerated in a senior  community.

It necessitated a sudden move and was quite upsetting to his two daughters and me who make up his care team.  Though Don has been grappling with progressive cognitive impairment, he is high functioning in many ways.  He doesn’t read voraciously as was his pattern for most of his life, but he still carries on a good conversation, enjoys social interactions, and has a great sense of humor.  However, increasingly, he can’t remember.

He can’t remember what he just ate for lunch or dinner.

He can’t remember who just called or came to visit him.

He can’t always remember where he is or why, or what day it is.

And this happened after a year of Covid, with months of lockdown.

Nine months after his move in April to memory care I think both Don and I are coming to some acceptance.  He talks openly about not remembering things.  I bring the photo album to look at past events, and in many cases, it’s all new to him.  He feels the sadness that he’s not contributing anything. In his earlier years he was a minister and a strong social justice advocate.  I am sad as I am losing the vibrant conversations and companionship of a dear man whom I love.

I rail at this forgetting disease.  I’ve read everything I can find to help me understand it.  I listen to podcasts and seek the counsel of people who have experienced this.  I imagine myself aging and losing my memory and it scares me.  I ask myself what is the spiritual challenge that this can teach me/us?

Recently, when I come to visit Don, we are focused on a squirrel that is appearing regularly outside his patio doors (Don’s apartment is on ground level).  Don’s daughter, Kim, left a water dish out for her dog, Lupa, when she last visited.  A squirrel discovered it and made daily predictable visits at the “happy hour” time of day.  Don and I used to celebrate a happy hour ritual regularly as a way to check in with each other and share the day’s events.

Surprisingly now, Don anticipates the squirrel’s daily visits.  He is concerned that the water be fresh, so it won’t freeze.  I make sure the water is available and together we await the arrival of our little friend.  We laugh and Don is animated.

I realize we have what the great spiritual masters say is most essential – The Present Moment.  This may be my greatest Christmas present!