Today, my order of cookies arrived in the mail. A friend from my opera supernumerary days is currently on Broadway in the role of Mary Sunshine and to help pay the bills while Broadway is dark, he has begun a home business baking sweets. I decided to share some of the goodies with my upstairs neighbor.
The neighbor husband is living with Dementia. It has been about 10 years since his diagnosis and most of his language is gone. He is the sweetest 75-year-old man I know, although at times he is rough with his wife. The neighbor wife is as close to a saint as one can get taking good care of him in their smallish apartment of one bedroom and one bath.
She, with her daughter, run a gift shop in Evanston, and a while back during a shopping visit, I mentioned that she looked familiar. She returned that I too look familiar and after a few trial and error guesses, we discovered that we both lived in the same condo.
A little more conversation led to my sharing that my husband had lived with Dementia for 12 years and had passed away a while back. She shared at that time that her husband also was living with Dementia. Need I say we bonded. I also felt the need to be there to support her if I could.
Several times we went out to coffee and it turns out that many of my stories, prompted by her comments, were able to give her the support she needed as well as suggest possible solutions to some of the caregiving problems she was having with her husband.
I started sharing baked goods with them as I love to bake but did not want to eat all the cookies, cakes, pies, etc by myself. So I was happy to share with them and they appreciated my efforts. Every now and then she would thank me by leaving a bag of something sweet in front of my door and once called ahead to let me know they were bringing me dinner from a local carryout.
Over time we have become friends and I have also befriended her daughter on my visits to the shop which the daughter now totally runs since my neighbor cannot leave her husband alone anymore.
Now and then they both neighbors show up at my door to pick up something I baked or when they are bringing me something in return. Mike and I always shake hands (then I sanitize) and we all wear masks as we do our neighborly exchanges and depending on who is delivering to whom one stays just inside the door while one or the other stays in the hall.
Today I dropped off some cookies for them. The wife and I talked for a while. When I arrived I called my "Hello" to the husband who was sitting on the sofa watching the TV. When I was about to leave, I called out my "Goodbye" and he got up to come to the door. He offered his hand and we shook (I sanitized when I got back to my unit.) She showed him the cookies I brought and he took the box and looked at them and handled a few.
Then he looked at me and said, "I love you." Seemingly out of nowhere from a man who has trouble with language. I thanked him and he again offered, "Come back to us!"
I replied with, "I will."
I left with tears running down my face at such a show of caring and love on his part and for the joy that apparently I bring with our visits!