It was cool outside with the threat of rain hanging heavy in the air. Even with my husband Ken’s Alzheimer’s the holidays were always special if not a little perplexing.
I had vowed from diagnoses, five years prior, that we would live our lives as normally as we possibly could, which wasn’t getting any easier.
He went through the motions of being who he had always been, but stumbled into confusion, chaos, irritation and often mischief if I didn’t watch him almost constantly, which was to be expected even when, in his demented mind, he was trying to help.
That’s how it was in the early evening of 2009 when in the midst of preparing dinner the doorbell rang. Quickly I hurried to see who was calling; before me stood a man with a rake. “May I clear the leaves from you lawn for a donation” he asked, his Latin accent thick but his sentence very well-articulated?
My immediate reaction was not kind.
Glancing over my shoulder I looked to see Ken was helping in the kitchen. One evening I caught him just before he poured an open salt shaker into my ready-for-the-oven meatloaf. Looking back at the caller I considered the grass. I had raked the leaves earlier in the day, and while more were still fluttering to the ground I felt they could wait for a day or two. Besides, I was busy right now. Didn’t he know I was dealing with Alzheimer’s and striving to have a normal Christmas? Wasn’t he astute enough to see I didn’t want to be bothered? Ready to tell him, “No, thank you” a spark of memory flashed through my mind.
A few days earlier I had picked up our church magazine which was folded back for my next read. The title, “Be The Answer To Someone’s Prayer” had jumped from the page that day. I was touched by the contained story and briefly thought about the message before getting on with the tasks at hand. Now the words raced once again across my mind. I glanced back into the kitchen. Ken was watching TV and my dinner was safe for the moment. Only seconds had passed and I felt a calming release believing I had been prompted to reconsider this stranger’s request.
“All right,” I told him. “There is a recycle can next to the house. Go ahead and rake the leaves, but I’m busy in the kitchen so when you finish ring the bell.” He thanked me and I closed the door.
Checking our dinner I found Ken still watching TV. In the bedroom I took a bill from my purse, and then I took another matching amount placing a bill in each of my front pockets. “If he does a sloppy job I’ll give him the one bill, but if the lawn is clean I’ll give him both bills,” I said to myself, and returned to the evening meal.
Several minutes later the bell rang again. The grass was clear and the recycle bin was back where it belonged. I reached into both pockets and handed him the bills. Graciously he smiled and his eyes smiled as well. He wished me a Merry Christmas. I returned the greeting adding, “Thank You,” and went back into the house.
I smiled asking myself, “Was I an answer to his prayer?” Perhaps I was only the first drop in his bucket, or I could have been all that was needed. I’ll never know and it really didn’t matter.
I felt less stressed and grateful that Ken was doing as well as he was, and above all I felt at peace in our world of Alzheimer’s.
It was a very Merry Christmas.
Original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room