But I Already Have My Lipstick On:  Our story of dealing with Alzheimers

Chapter Twelve

My relationship with Belle throughout the years had many highs and lows.  Most of our issues stemmed from her relationship with Scott and our competition for his attention.  He placed her high on a pedestal and she enjoyed being there.  I was jealous of her and she was jealous of me.  As the years passed, we settled into an accepting, but not overly warm relationship. 

As we were injected more and more into her life, Belle and I spent more time together one on one than we ever had before.  In addition to being Scott’s back up for her various needs, including health and hair appointments, I also worked the closest to Belle’s home, so any emergency contact became my responsibility. As an example, if Scott called her during the day and she did not answer, I would receive a call from him and it was my responsibility to then drive over to her house to check on her.  I was lucky to have the type of job that allowed me to disappear for short periods of time during the work day.  After most of Scott’s calls, I would find her in the backyard, visiting a neighbor or asleep.  Additionally, as she became prone to spells when she became more confused than normal or became very upset for known or unknown reasons, due to my physical closeness, I was the one that sat and talked with her while she calmed down. 

In early 1997, Belle and I were involved in more than one occasion that found us sitting in her living room talking about her current situation and her past life.  One event of this nature I recall specifically started out with Belle being upset over a phone discussion with Susan that Belle had misunderstood.  Belle had called Scott and Scott had called me to step in and go to speak with her immediately after work, as he had a previous obligation he could not cancel.  By the time I was able to arrive, she couldn’t recall what her discussion with Susan had been about, and I do not know if I ever found out what the topic had been.  But we did begin to discuss Belle’s life and her current situation and feelings.

Belle stated several times that she knew something was wrong with her.  She really thought she might be going crazy.  She could not remember many things she knew she should know and she couldn’t finish a project as she had once done.  She could tell by the look on the faces of people she spoke with when she got something wrong, although she was rarely aware of what it might be that was wrong, which only increased her fear and anxiety.  She did not want to be embarrassed or embarrass anyone.  She felt that people were lying to her, telling her they had told her things she was sure they had not.  She did not know she repeated herself or that she made up stories, although she did admit to ‘guessing’ sometimes when asked a question she could not answer.  She did not know we maintained daily phone contact with her and had no idea how often one or both of us were at her house.   She claimed people must be coming into her house at night or when she was gone during the day and moving her things around, because things around the house were seldom where she left them.   She was afraid of what was happening to her and seemed to know she was helpless to stop it.  She was glad we were around to help, but did not want to be a burden.  We spoke about her life, and touched on her relationship with Jim, her mother, and her children.  She loved Scott deeply and had strived to raise him to be the caring type of man that he had become.  She was jealous of me because I had a husband like Scott; he was the type of man she had always wanted and had not married.  She was also jealous of me because I had her Scott.  And, in this modern world, I had a job and my own life in addition to my ‘good’ husband.  From her point of view, I had it all, a certain type of self earned worth she felt she had never had the opportunity to achieve.  And now, after all the things she had not been able to accomplish with her life, or have in her life, she was going crazy.

We spoke for some time and I did my best to reassure her all was okay.  I confirmed we knew she was not functioning as well as in the past and that she needed additional assistance.  I confirmed we were doing all we could to provide her the assistance she needed.   Based on her comments, I began to more fully understand why our relationship had been so rocky.  Taking me into her confidence regarding the desires and regrets of her life and what she felt I had accomplished with mine allowed me to let some of the old hard feelings dissolve.

When Scott arrived Belle had calmed down, forgetting about the original reason for my visit and all was fine.  I explained to Scott that Belle and I had a long talk and that all was well.  To my surprise, Belle was surprised by my comments to Scott, as she did not recall our conversation.   She felt better and was in good spirits, even if the long detailed conversation was lost to her.

As time passed and more conversations occurred between us that started out with her upset and ended with her being calm without remembering that she had been upset, I came to believe that although Belle would not recall the specifics of any of our conversations, or sometimes the conversation at all, our words of support and reassurance settled somewhere in her being, worked to help her calm down and provided the emotional support she needed.  Belle had difficulty recalling events but she always knew how she felt, even if expressing how she felt was becoming more difficult.  I believe she knew that we were there to help and protect her, whatever was on the horizon, and this allowed her reveal her concerns, fears and feelings regarding the direction her life was heading.