June 21, 2022
The Refuge, Pat’s memory care facility, has a small but attractive courtyard in which residents can sit, take short walks, and visit. I take Pat there every day I can, a partial replacement for the long summer drives in the country that we took when Pat lived at home. Today, on the longest and warmest day of the year (about 90 degrees Fahrenheit), we sat in the shade at sunset. Pat and I listened to robins singing, watched the sun lighting just the tops of trees lining the hill above the courtyard, and felt the soft breeze on our cheeks. Three other residents spoke quietly at a table a few feet away. Levi, our collie mix, strolled around the courtyard, delighted that he could be let off his leash.
Just then a resident I’ll name Cherie appeared in the doorway. Cherie is always pleasant and talkative; unfortunately, she cannot understand people very well and she cannot speak in meaningful sentences. We invited Cherie into the courtyard, and she gave us a beatific smile, said “sure,” and walked the other way, unintentionally closing the door and locking us out of the main building as she departed. The only way back inside was to gain the staff’s attention. Naturally, there were no staff people in sight. I could see that one of the residents was becoming anxious, although Pat seemed unconcerned. I was becoming anxious, I realized. I began thinking about what it would be like to be stuck here, not in the courtyard per se but at The Refuge, knowing that you would be living there the rest of your life. I remembered the time several months ago when Pat looked at me and said, “I’m here at The Refuge, aren’t I, to stay.” We cried together that day. Not wanting to linger in that sad place, I pulled out my phone and called the main line; eventually a staff person picked up and opened the door.
By now Pat’s eyes were shut. She wasn’t sleeping, though. Lately Pat has been spending much time awake with her eyes closed. I’m not sure why she does this. I don’t think she has an infection and tonight she turned down my offer of sunglasses, so glare doesn’t seem to be an issue.
Relaxed, I returned to the birds calling, the sun setting, and the breeze blowing against our cheeks, hoping that Pat could feel content here at The Refuge, at least tonight.