I planned a cross-town trip for Lynne and me to Alki Beach. I made a playlist of the music at her birthday party. I expected we’d need a bathroom break half-way through, so I planned to be at the east side of Alki Beach where there would be some restaurants open with social distancing.
Lynne buckled in and asked, “How do you like your new car?”
“Fine I feel safer.” It’s a red Mazda CX-30, given a five-star safety rating by the National Transportation Safety Board. I bought it because Lynne, her brother and sister said it was too dangerous for me to drive my old car. They were right and I knew it. I would not have planned this trip with my old car.
I started the music with I Want to Dance with Somebody I Love by Whitney Houston. We heard it three times before I switched to the next one. I think it stayed in her memory to the end of the trip.
Lynne said, “I’m getting more comfortable about driving.” She spoke in complete sentences, not two words at a time as staff have told me. That was encouraging.
Lynne sang along as I chatted about stories of her teaching days and how sad it was restaurant owners were losing money from shutdowns without economic relief. She was excited to see the historic Admiral Theater. We reached the west shore and as soon as we hit the eastern shore Lynne said she had to go to the bathroom. Luckily, we saw Salty’s on Alki Beach, a high-class seaside seafood restaurant and bar.
It was spacious and empty. The concierge said, “Sorry, we’re not open until 4:00 pm, but you could get carry out.”
He gave me the menus, which were not promising. “Do you have any non-alcoholic beverages?”
“I’ll check,” he said. Apparently that was an unusual request.
Lynne went in the bathroom and came out right away.
“Did you go?”
The concierge said they had ice cream and could make us a root beer float for $4.50. I splurged on two.
Lynne went back in the bathroom and came out right away.
“Did you go?
We waited a while, probably while the concierge searched for the dessert chef to fill our order.
I told Lynne to stay seated and I went to the bathroom. Lynne came in to wash her hands when I washed my hands. We went back out to wait.
Lynne said, “OK, now I really have to go.”
I wasn’t doing anything, so I said, “I’ll go with you.”
She went to the sink to wash her hands. I went to the first stall. “Hon, why don’t you use this first?”
“Oh, that’s where it is. I couldn’t find it.”
I waited in the restroom to help any other woman who might come in. Suddenly I heard Lynne shout, “Oh, oh.”
“Are you OK?”
She quickly calmed me down. “It’s OK, I found it.”
She looked at the sink as she headed for the door.
“Aren’t you going to use the sink?”
“No, I’m OK.”
By that time that it was OK for me too. We waited by windows in the waiting area.
The concierge came out with two floats in paper cups. I poked the straws in the cups as he showed Lynne an eagle’s nest in the woods, and a newer one close by. “We had two eagles when they were on the endangered list, but now we have five. I love to watch them. Enjoy.”
She sucked her float dry, lifted the lid on the trash bin and tossed in her cup. She stayed by the window where she saw the back of a carved wooden statue, possibly Salty.
She said, “He’s not moving. It must be hard to stand there all day.”
I gave Lynne the leather bill holder with the tip to give to the talkative eagle lover. She liked that idea. She came back with it. She went back again and came back with it again. Together we found him and thanked him.
As we headed up Madison she talked again.
“I think I want to talk with somebody.” She was repeating Whitney Houston, enlivened by her chat with the gregarious eagle lover.
A few blocks later, she said, “They might be watching a movie.”
A few blocks later, she said, “I have to work on knowing when people want to talk or not.”
I told her, “Lynne, everybody I’ve talked to says you’re an extravert. You know how to talk to people. You have to remember a lot of people on your floor can’t even talk.”
We told the Aegis concierge Lynne wanted to talk with some people. The concierge said she definitely would do that.
How could we create the same secure feeling with music and scenery to reduce anxiety and increase connections for loved ones with dementia? I ache in my loneliness about her loneliness.
I tell myself to celebrate a safe, secure, loving time — a time to dance with somebody you love.