“Moorings cast off, he is sailing away without me…”
~ my journal, May 2014
At the time I wrote those words, Dale’s new memories were veering farther away from any semblance of our shared past. Friendships with celebrities and exciting trips all over the world were becoming a part of our story.
More than this, though. Aspects of the man I had known for more than 30 years were changing:
- Dale, the person who found joy in lively discussions about news and ideas, was having difficulty analyzing issues and events.
- Dale, the one who added energy and laughter to any room he entered, was becoming quieter as following conversations became more challenging.
- And Dale, the man whose sensitivity and understanding I treasured, could no longer easily see things from another perspective.
As these changes unfolded, a gulf developed between us where our familiar interactions had been. I found that I could no longer “think out loud” with him or talk in depth about things that were troubling me. Anything hypothetical was increasingly puzzling to him. Conversations about plans and decisions became too confusing. Even discussing the news was difficult because it was contaminated with his false memories. It felt like the tide of his disease was taking us away from one another.
More than this, though. It felt like Dale-himself was disappearing.
It was during this period that my brother David remarked: “The person you miss the most is sitting right beside you.” I can think of no better description for how it felt then…and how it feels now as the losses mount. It’s one of the many paradoxes of this journey: presence and absence, side by side.
This is what I keep learning: each disease-related loss creates a different version of Dale. No “shell” of himself, but fully present in both familiar and new ways. Different, not gone. Parts of him are no longer accessible. I miss those things. I grieve those losses. But he is still here.
Dale IS sitting right beside me. The gulf is bridged each time I meet him in the present moment. He has not sailed away. He has not disappeared.
He is still here.