Smiles. Great big, purely joyful, ear-to-ear smiles.
Until very recently, these moments created silent, choked-off tears in my heart as I tried to smile around them and join in. The reason for this is that her smiles were all but empty; the kind of vacant, nobody-home smiles you see in nursing homes when it seems that there’s no thought behind the smile, no matter how large and happy it looks. The kind of smile that you see and just know that the person is very, very ill.
I’ve seen this smile many times over the years. A coworker had a customer purchasing a car a few years back, and she brought her mother with her. At 91, many would say she’d “lived a full life”, but watching her clutch greedily at her suckers and laugh like a six-year-old at her own farts made me cringe at the emptiness in her grins. That was the emptiness lurking behind Jacquelynn’s smiles.
Not. Any. More.
I’m not making any grand claims of instant recovery. There is still SO far to go, and there are still hurdles to jump and mountains to climb. But the progress is already undeniable.
Her energy is up. Yesterday, we had to send a urine sample away to an out of state lab for one more Lyme test, and the instructions were for the sample to be taken following 30 minutes of vigorous exercise and an hour’s recuperation. With absolute focus on getting a perfect sample, she practically exploded out the door for her morning “walk”. It was actually nearly a jog. I had NO IDEA she had it in her, but she truly hustled. Arms pumping at her sides, I was forced to really stride to keep up as she put very nearly a mile behind her before even slowing down approaching our driveway.
The level of energy on display wasn’t the only thing that surprised me, either. We spoke the entire time, and she never lost a sentence or hunted for a word (aside from a couple of names). Her focus and determination never wavered, and her pace never once relented until we were almost home.
And her smile was bright as the sunrise and as full of meaning and promise as well. There was thought and intent and reason I hadn’t seen in more months than I can easily recall. The tears that I choked back this time (and again now as I write this) have a new genesis altogether. I honestly joined in her joy this time.
Today, we gave a gift to our beloved neighbor Joyce. You may recall that Joyce recently lost her husband after a protracted battle with throat cancer. Well, Joyce has stated that she feels as deep a need for Jacquelynn in her life as Jacquelynn has for her; two souls who need the companionship of a friend like they need air to breathe. We had been trying to think of something to give Joyce as a gift, but not a bereavement card or another tiresome bouquet of flowers. Something to help her move forward and to hopefully bring a little much-needed joy into her life…
The answer came fully formed from Jacquelynn’s lips a few days ago, and it was inspired. I’m honestly ashamed that I didn’t think of it, but thrilled that she did, for many reasons.
I wrote a card to accompany the gift, which arrived from Amazon this afternoon, and we called Joyce out for just a moment to give it to her. It was a tear-inducing success and proved as brilliant a gift idea as I knew it was from the instant Jacquelynn suggested it. Her idea. Not mine, HERS. SO much more than she would even have attempted as recently as a few weeks ago.
She still tires easily, of course, though not as quickly as before. She has an easier time swallowing her pills with each passing day. She herself observed that her balance while drinking is improving.
There’s a new prescription on the way, too. Dr. Ross’ office called and they’re sending a nasal spray medication to treat her for a staph infection in the nasal cavities called MARCoNS (Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Coagulase Negative Staphylococci). This is (according to my research) found in people with mold exposure and Lyme disease as well as other toxin-related illnesses, which explains why they immediately sent out the kit for yesterday’s urine test. Lyme bacteria is a huge factor in type 3 Alzheimer’s, and may even be responsible for several of her other symptoms, as I explained in an earlier post.
She’s smiling at me from across the room right now. It’s a smile with love in it, and gratitude. It’s the smile of an incredibly strong and determined woman who feels better. She knows that she’s improving, and that creates the smile that I’d die for. More, it is the smile that I’d LIVE for.
And I do.
The lead image for this post is a scratchboard portrait I did for Jacquelynn this Valentine’s Day. It’s based on her favorite photo of her and mine of me. I gave it to her in the morning and took her to the hospital about 16 hours later. Our lives haven’t been remotely the same since.