Awareness. Like most words in the English language, it has almost countless meanings, and they all vary further depending upon context.
Awareness is the best word I can find to describe the growth and improvement I’m seeing in Jacquelynn as we proceed with the ReCoDe protocol. It manifested again today in a new way, which surprised me once more.
Some context first: today my nephew and sister visited for a short while. I had gifted Alexis, my youngest sister’s oldest child (31) and only son, my 1982 Yamaha motorcycle and his Aunt Cheryl offered the use of her truck to tow it back to Indianapolis. Now, Jacquelynn adores Cheryl; there’s something unassailably genuine about her that has always struck a chord, and they’ve been friends since their very first meeting. They’ve had very little interaction since Jacquelynn’s health began to decline, and although she didn’t relate it to me, she had apparently hoped to spend some time catching up while Cheryl was here. But, as Alex had rented the trailer for only one day and they had to get it back before closing, there was no opportunity to linger. They came, chatted, loaded, and left.
After they were gone, Jacquelynn (who had gone inside early on) was visibly agitated. After some digging, I would discover that she felt excluded and upset over not even getting to say goodbye. She wasn’t angry, but disappointed, and that, for her, can lead to distraction and can make her a little extra emotional. Hoping to redirect and maybe focus her energy a little, I suggested a walk. Being Jacquelynn, she jumped (almost literally) at the suggestion, and by the time I had gone upstairs to get my mailbox key (our ostensible destination), she was pacing impatiently to get her feet moving.
Before we were to the end of our very short driveway, a smile had split her face and she was almost bouncing. This wouldn’t be the high-energy hustle/walk/jog of early in the day, but an almost meandering, hand-holding stroll spent reveling in the glory of the outdoors.
Normally, especially when we’re going to the mailbox bridge, most of our path is, by necessity, along the sidewalk. Because she doesn’t really lift her feet as high as most people, Jacquelynn is prone to occasional tripping. This happened just yesterday and she nearly sprawled into the bushes in front of a house along the way. Then, I was quite impressed with the quickness and agility with which she recovered, as I was less than useless in assisting her to stay upright. I hadn’t seen her instincts take over that fully and quickly in some time. Normally, as we walk, I point out seems and ledges in the walk, to help her avoid a mishap.
Today, she turned the tables on me and pointed a sharp rise in the walk to me, which would likely have tripped me up.
I know, that sounds incredibly minor. So, she saw a crack in the sidewalk. So what? Well, I’ve grown quite used to her almost complete oblivion as far as her surroundings goes. She’ll wander into the middle of the street while we walk, regardless of traffic, if I don’t walk to the outside (the polite thing to do anyway) and sort of “steer” her toward the edge. She’ll step on/trip over even a large-ish stick or obstacle in her way if I don’t point it out to her and direct her around it. I constantly remind her to avoid the painted lines in parking lots when it’s wet out, and still she’ll step right in them seconds after I urge her caution (she slipped on a slick paint stripe a couple of years back and damn near busted her head open against a parked car).
So, yes, having her point out a potential hazard on the sidewalk was a big deal for me.
She hates taking all the pills. There are 22 pills and one nasal spray awaiting her each day. I do what I can to mix some of them into her food, just to relieve her of the onus of choking back so many, but she takes them. Even when she’s so tired she can hardly lift the water glass, she takes them.
She also conquers her fears, which must be unimaginable to you and me, every single day. Remember what Jacquelynn has accomplished in her life. Her 160+ IQ. Never acting it for a second, but always knowing, deep down, that she’s the probably the smartest person in the room. Then imagine her struggling today to ask me to change the channel on the television. It took several minutes of looking for the words until she finally gave up with a profanity I’d only seldom heard from her in our first 17 years together but which has become oh so common since. Eventually, she had to take me by the hand, walk me to the TV room and point at the set, and spat out “I don’t want that!”
The helplessness, the futility, the impotence, and the inexpressible fear.
And she conquers it. Every. Single. Day.