Joe, Janet, and Memory Loss

There was no mistaking her beauty. At 78 Janet was in college shape and her engaging smile drew you to her. Her figure was enticing and she moved and laughed like a woman who had provoked males her entire life and thoroughly enjoyed the attention. And she could not remember what she had eaten for lunch or who just called or where she went yesterday or if she was on chemo therapy. She was completely free of pain or anxiety concerning her newly elevated cancer markers and the subsequent weekly chemo. She never remembered the ongoing side effects of chemo allowing her to remain emotionally unaffected and free of pain medication.

Janet and Joe have a Beautiful Garden
Janet and Joe Have a Garden

Joe’s cancerous kidney had been removed and he was slowly returning to his new normal. A full recovery with no chemo was his future. Kidney cancer is very often healed by simply removing the infected kidney without any additional treatment.

“I have to do everything for her except washing her.” Joe was sharing his frustration with the woman he had loved for 60 years. I wondered why he didn’t wash her too.

“You know she never said no to me. Never.” He had once privately disclosed. Were his memories of their love manifested as physical intimacy too painful?

“She asks me the same thing over and over again. She just can’t remember. I get mad at her and I know it’s not her fault.”

“I will come by and sit with her later.” I knew he needed a break from his caretaker role to refuel his emotional storage tanks. And I enjoyed talking with Janet.

“Where did you stay on your trip to Savannah? With friends? A Hotel?” I wanted to know how her 60th High School class reunion had gone.

“I know Tom has an extra bedroom so maybe we stayed there. It could have been a hotel. I can’t remember.” And she laughed happily and somewhat mischievously. I was glad she was not in one of her angry moods. Janet could be viciously angry about her inability to cook, drive and do any of the things she used to. She missed her old lifestyle when she could remember it.

“By the end of the year I will need to put Janet in a home. She is getting worse and worse. I can’t take care of her the way she needs it.” His overwhelming sadness at the living loss he was going through brought two different feelings. ? I was very sad for his living loss and incredibly jealous that he had had a 60 year life with a woman he unwaveringly loved.

 A living loss where your wife’s soul left her living body might be worse than sudden death. You could see your beautiful wife looking as great as ever and know that your partner had left the body. The person you had shared your day with for 60 years was no longer there.  Death would be a welcomed event but I wondered if Janet passed would Joe be right behind her.

As we stand talking in the front yard I can’t help noticing that Janet’s incredible garden was in full bloom and weed free. This was the same garden that had gone to waste last year during her cancer recovery.  Now the garden was clearly being cared for.

“I guess Janet is feeling good enough to work on her garden again.” I assumed and hoped she was.

“She loves that garden and worked really hard for it.” Joe seemed reserved and sullen as he spoke.

“Hi Janet.” I welcomed Janet as she joined us.

“You are back to work on the garden again. I thought I had a chance with my garden but I will never catch you.” I was teasing but also somewhat jealous.

“I can’t work on the garden. I don’t know what is going on with it.” Janet balked at her memory being called for. Her head was shaking as it often did when she felt stress.

“Joe, you are doing it aren’t you?” A wave of understanding washed over me as Joe’s love for Janet burst into the limelight. He was working the garden to hold onto that part of Janet and because he knew the joy it had brought her.

Make sure you check the links below. Take the online memory test.

When It’s Time for a Nursing Home

Memory Loss – When to Seek Help

Online Memory Test