“A withered person with a scrambled mind [and] memories sealed away [is] the familiar face of Alzheimer’s. But there is also the waiting period, which Geri Taylor has been navigating with prudence, grace and hope.”
N.R. Kleinfield tells Taylor’s story, in depth, with respect and gentle dignity, at The New York Times:
During a ruminant moment, Geri Taylor sat and, as an exercise, wrote down how she had changed. She called it: “Things I Do Differently as a Result of Diminished Capacity.”
The bulletinlike inspection report clarified for her who she now was. She found it sobering, for it caused her to realize just how reliant on others the slow drip of betrayals had made her, and that wounded her hard pride.
The log was two full pages. There were the expected entries, like not driving, not traveling alone (except by subway, bus or Metro-North train), simplifying her book choices, planning very carefully for outside activities (“always carry the same ‘highway bag,’” “constantly checking my things when I am out — have lost my vest, boots, watch and glasses in past nine months — very unusual”).
The list also contained some upbeat aspects. For instance, she put down how she cherished friends and family more than ever: “Daily call, email and text family and friends at a rate of 2-3 daily.”
And she listed something unexpected: “Do take housework more seriously and spend more time.” She cited the elements of housework as “an escape to simpler things” and how they were “time away from people and restful.” The dust and laundry, after all, didn’t judge her limitations, her spotty memory. So she found delight and gratification, even intoxication, in her triumphs over specks of dust and blemished counters.
“I can’t manage the bills, and I can’t manage the schedule,” she said. “But this is something I can do, and I can do well. So I’ve embraced it more. It’s identity. It’s a role I can still assume.”
She pointed out, “And most of the time, you can sing!”
As she wiped down counters and vacuumed the floor and changed bedsheets, she liked to sing whatever drifted through her mind (“Sometimes it’s disturbing what goes through my mind”).
They were old hymns. Show tunes. “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” “Amazing Grace.” A favorite was “Barbara Allen,” an English ballad about a man dying as he pined for the love of a woman. Grim, all right, but she liked it just fine for the tune, which suited her voice, a second soprano alto. So she cleaned with gusto and great pleasure. And she sang.
Taylor relies on her iPhone for reminders throughout the day. It helps her keep her independence.