I’m asked this question more often now. I don’t always know what to say.
Last week, the receptionist at the dentist’s office asked.
I replied, “Sometimes.”
Sometimes there’s a clear look of recognition in his eyes. I’ve known it for decades. It’s Dale looking at Norma, or at least, at someone he loves.
Other times there is no recognition that I can discern. During those times, it seems that I could be anyone as I feed him, help him in the bathroom, put him to bed.
Several years ago, he stopped saying my name. Last year, he told our caregiver that I was his “mommy.” Each shift was disorienting, but his looks of recognition reassured me that I was still someone he knew.
Now these, too, are fading. It feels as though I am leaving his sight, his awareness.
The disease has been separating us for years, removing recent experiences, shared history, common language. Whenever I feel unseen by him, the reality of this separation hits especially hard.
More and more, Dale is on a different path and entering a world that I am not a part of.
It is the most painful part of the journey to this point.
Does he know me? I’m not sure. Sometimes.
I hold on to hope that he knows me in ways I may not be able to discern.
Even more, I hold on to hope that he feels known by me.
Each evening when I help him get back in bed, I pull up his covers and say, “I love you, Dale.”
Last night he replied, “I know it.” I told him I was glad.
Even though Dale may not know me in the ways he used to or in ways that I can see, may he know this: that he is loved.
May he always know he is loved.