Archive for the ‘Mrs. C.’ Category

Mrs. C., who is ninety-something and is in the mid-stages of Alzheimer’s, spends the greater part of her days sitting on a sofa, reclining on a chaise lounge, or lying in bed, drifting in and out of sleep. I’ve seen her leafing through her mail, though she appears to have forgotten how to read. Sometimes she will get up and wander around her apartment, a common behavior manifested by people with Alzheimer’s. A professor I once had described it as “looking for herself.”

On the whole, Mrs. C. does not talk much. When she does, she is unfailingly polite, and she uses old-fashioned phrases like “I should think so!” and “I beg your pardon?” and adjectives like “marvelous!” and “lovely!”

During our massage sessions, Mrs. C. is very attuned to her senses of hearing and sight, as well as touch. Often we will hear a cacophony of horns coming from the street, 17 stories down, or a siren approaching from five or six blocks away, and she’ll ask me “what on earth is that all about?” Or she will listen quietly to the music I play for her (she seems to like Brahms and Beethoven best) and then react when there is a dramatic moment, or when the music ends, by exclaiming, laughing, or even clapping her hands. At some point during every massage she will say “that feels so good!” as if it’s the first massage she’s ever had.

Her bedroom is on a southwest corner, and gets direct, unobstructed afternoon light. One lovely fall day, with scattered cumulus clouds drifting across the sky, provided a study in the play of light and shadow.

For the first 10 minutes of her massage, the sun was hiding behind one of those clouds. Suddenly the light in the room brightened dramatically and Mrs. C. said, with surprise, “wow! when it’s sunny, it’s really sunny.” I met her there, sharing her wonder at the brightness of the light, and then just as suddenly it was gone. We laughed, and waited for the light to come back.

Each time the sun returned we reacted together, laughing and exclaiming with joy at the beauty of the light. I asked her if she knew why the sun was doing that. She said, “no, I have no idea.” I pointed out some clouds in the sky and explained how they move in front of the sun, making it dark, and then when they move away, it gets bright again. “I didn’t know that,” she replied, delighted.

Although this disease has taken so much from Mrs. C., she has the capacity to experience wonder at the sensory information that her brain is still able to process. She’s reached a place that so many people strive for through meditation practice, a place where the thinking stops and what is left is awareness. For Mrs. C., there is no such thing as past, or future, there’s only now.

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