Going out to lunch was all part of a secret and detailed plan to move him, without distress, into a nursing home.It’s five years since Howard was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and at least ten since his symptoms first appeared in his early 60s.His rainbow collection of bow ties is still in a bedroom drawer, abandoned when sweatshirts and trackie bottoms became a more practical dress code. He may no longer experience joy but neither does he feel sad. I keep meaning to offer them to one of his equally dapper friends but I’m not quite ready to let the=m go. As Howard’s condition progressed, his moods had become volatile.There were moments every day when he didn’t know who I was, and cracks were appearing in my own health: flu, shingles, falling asleep in the middle of the day. That was when I was forced to admit that the unthinkable had become a necessity.The first evening I ventured out alone I felt off-balance. I enjoy this new freedom, and yet sometimes I catch myself just going through the motions. We downsized last year, tailoring ourselves to a shrinking income and to Howard’s need for a simple, one-level layout.
Dementia had curtailed our social life for the past few years and I’ve become accustomed to solitude. For the first time in years, I’m now free to come and go as I please and I’ve begun visiting friends and family.The days sped by, until the final 24 hours which slowed to an agonising crawl: our last walk by the harbour, our last dinner, our last night of sharing a bed.As the clock ticked towards Howard’s lunch date I managed to keep it together. ‘See you later,’ I lied, and watched the car drive away.On May 17 my husband left our apartment around 12.30pm to have lunch with one of his daughters.
What I knew, but he did not, was that he would never come home again.
At the beginning he was still able to work, drive and generally care for himself.