Early in our marriage, when on long drives or walks, my husband, Marshall, and I would create stories.We’d start with a what-if, and then carry it away to another land and time. As an entertainer and a storyteller, these tales became quite fantastical.
Now Marshall tells stories that are a mix of past and present, fantasy and reality because there are no divisions in the brain to separate it all. Everything is tossed around and comes out like when we are dreaming. How often we have an odd dream that combines a friend or relative with a fictional character on tv doing some bizarre activity from our past. This is how it is for someone living with Alzheimer’s. They are trying to make sense of memories, surrounding stimulation, fears, and feelings scattered throughout the brain.
Yesterday, I asked Marshall how he became interested in magic. I know the story but these types of questions offer us something to talk about. He comprehends so little of what I tell him. We can’t talk about what he did that morning, because it never became a memory to recall. Nor can we discuss the future as time is immeasurable to him.
So I ask Marshall about the distant past (which he’s more likely to still remember) to offer him an opportunity to talk. I was surprised when he responded to my question by saying he became interested in magic by watching magicians on a tv show when he was a child, and then when he grew up, he was asked to go on that show.
Television wasn’t available until Marshall was in his late teens. He actually was telling me the story of so many middle-aged magicians today who got interested in magic by watching him on the Bozo Show.
Rather than correct Marshall, I listen attentively to these mixed-up memories with my heart, and not my head that wants accuracy and truth. I give him the opportunity to connect with me by telling a story, any story.
When we think about it, most of what we discuss with our friends is meaningless. We simply want to be together, heard, and valued by the people we love. We want to know we matter.