My son saw the obituary before I did. “Was that your friend with Alzheimer’s in the obituaries today?” I hadn’t read the paper yet but when he told me the name, I said “Yes, that was her.”
The last time I saw Lynne, I didn’t recognize her. She bore small resemblance to the vivacious woman that had become my friend. Yes, she had dementia when I met her; in fact, it was the reason I met her.
The Alzheimer’s Association had started a group for early-onset Alzheimer’s. The group met in Columbia, and I had decided to take Jim. Joetta from the Mid-Missouri Chapter asked me if I would mind bringing a lady with early onset that lived in Sedalia. I agreed to go by and pick up Lynne so she could participate in the group.
From my journal—Meeting Lynne and becoming friends:
The first group meeting was set. I loaded Jim into the back seat of my Nissan Sentra and drove to the apartment building where Lynne lived. She saw us drive up and immediately came outside. Lynn was an attractive, quiet woman with a fair complexion, and neatly groomed.
We introduced ourselves, and she settled into the front seat for the hour long drive to support group. We instantly hit it off. As we drove toward Columbia, Lynne and I chatted easily about clothes, movies, and our dogs. Lynne told me that she wished she had a man to be romantically involved with. She said she really enjoyed male company, but had no one in her life now.
We stopped at the rest area so that everyone could use the restroom, and then headed onto our group meeting. Other than Lynne, Jim, and I, one other couple attended the meeting. They lived in Columbia, and Stan was in a much earlier stage of the disease than Jim. Stan was articulate and he spoke about the frustration of not being able to do the things he used to do, the stigma of losing his job, and his fear of what the future held both him and his wife.
Jim’s communication abilities were already severely impaired and he nodded agreement while the other man talked. He mumbled “yes” several times. The facilitator tried to draw Jim into the conversation.
“He said it,” Jim finally stammered, tears running down his cheeks.
After we left the meeting, Lynne told me that she couldn’t tell anything was wrong with the other participant. I could hear a certain hesitation in Stan’s speech when he talked, and noticed a dependence on his wife to help him when he became confused.
I took Lynne and Jim to lunch at Jim’s favorite place, Steak and Shake. Lynne wanted to buy our lunch, but I bought her lunch the first time. She insisted her sister had given her money to buy lunch, so I agreed that she could pay next time.
The next month during the drive to the support group meeting, Lynn told me Jim scared her.
“Why?” I asked, because Jim was easy to get along with at this stage.
“It scares me to think I will be like that,” she said.
Jim was sitting in the back seat wearing a jacket covered with pins, a cap pulled down low, dark sunglasses on, and earphones on so he could play his cassettes. When the tapes clicked at the end, he handed it to me to change the tape. Lynn changed them since I was driving.
“Lynne, every person is different. The medicine seems to help you and it never helped Jim.”
“That makes me feel better,” she said.
Each time I took her home, I gave her a hug.
I admired Lynn’s awareness of her disease. She willingly gave up her driver’s license because she no longer trusted her driving. She made the decision to go into assisted living when she could no longer remember if she had taken her medication. “Alzheimer’s is a terrible disease,” Lynne said, “but in some ways it has been a real blessing. I now have more friends than I ever had in my life, and I met these wonderful people because of my disease.”
Wow! How do you respond when someone says something like that?
Lynne and I shared a love for movies and we went to several together. We saw Anna and the King and we both enjoyed the movie and the beautiful costumes.
Now, Lynne is gone and a few lines in the paper mark her passing, but don’t do justice to the warm, loving person she was. Her journey has ended, but I will always remember the way her face lit up with the joy of life.
Copyright © November 2010 L. S. Fisher