I think sometimes we feel unseen, unheard and therefore unworthy.
I had to pick up something for dinner today and as I stood in the checkout line I noticed two older people in front of me. I didn’t connect that they were together as I browsed the latest tabloid fodder with a sneer. While the cashier started ring up my order, the man grabbed at my items. “No, no, no”, the lady insisted and immediately it dawned on me that this man has Alzheimer’s.
The cashier finished up my order and I paid and left. As I approached the door, the man stood there at the exit facing in, a tiny line of saliva hanging from his lip. “Hi!”, I said brightly with a big smile plastered on my face. Inside my heart was beating faster as I wondered where his wife was. He mumbled something that sounded like hello. I put all of my bags in one hand and said softly, “We need to go this way I think. Is this the way out?” He grinned and nodded and moved enough for me to peek outside. She was there, fifteen feet away from him.
She told me that he didn’t know where she was. I nodded and grabbed his elbow gently and walked him over to her. “He didn’t know where I was”, she repeated. “I understand”, I told her, “My father has Alzheimer’s”. Her head and her shoulders dropped and I felt mine respond in kind. It’s an odd fellowship to be in this group of people.
Alzheimer’s is indiscriminate. It cares about nothing and no one. Not the patients and certainly not their families.
It hit closer to home than I ever would have imagined. I sat in my truck and cried; the wrenching, gut-busting sobs that come from the absolute realization of a situation. This poor dear man lost his wife in the span of what probably amounted to no more than 20 steps. She was there waiting for him and the last thing she expected was empathy from a complete stranger.
But she knew and I knew that I saw her. I saw her struggle. I saw her dedication. I saw her fear. I saw her love. I saw her.