Never Promised a Rose Garden

Lynne in the Woodland Park Zoo Rose Garden.

The other day Lynne was watching a movie in the dining room. She didn’t respond to rubbing her shoulders and hearing “I love you.” I gave her a color photo of her graduating senior with his brothers boys and me. Her face softened when she saw it.  She stared at it.  Looked at the movie.  Looked at her photo. My inner voice said don’t disturb her. I walked the loop on her Life’s Neighborhood floor. Ten minutes later her seat was empty. I caught up to her. She walked with head down, short steps, slowly, constantly. The photo was gone. A caregiver put it in her room for later. I put my hand under hers and she held it slightly for a while, then dropped it. I stopped touching her, respecting her space.

She cannot hold her head up, so she looks at the floor lost in thought. She has a smaller smile and fewer of them. She listened to my lengthy story with pauses between each sentence until I hesitated to organize my thoughts for the last sentence. She grew impatient. What happened? She anticipated an ending. She probably worries about my memory.

She worries a lot. She walks her floor from the door to the garden courtyard past the elevators to the edge of the dining room. She says, I have to stop here. She does not like to sit with the people in the dining area on her floor who spend most of the day listening to music, an activities program, or the big screen TV. She turns around to start another loop. She likes the help from caregivers in the entire building. She likes bus rides to gardens. She was the only resident who walked in the Woodland Park Zoo Rose Garden.

She talked as she walked lost in thought. I shouldn’t be here. You’re just like everyone else. You and Dad are the same. She grabbed her pants and said, I’ve got to go. I ask where? Home. We kept walking.and talking. Can we leave now? That woman (named) is a piece of work.  That man scares me. They’re very strict. I should not have told them. Her voice got softer and softer until she spoke to the floor in a barely audible voice.  Finally I said, “Talk louder, Hon, I can’t hear you.” She said clearly, Sorry, but returned to her inaudible voice. After 45 minutes I said I had to go. She nodded. I turned around and she walked up to a caregiver. .

Lynne’s Aunt asked why I did not send an invitation about Friday video chats, so I decided to update everyone. I did not send an email because she had more visits than video chats. She enjoyed the visits. In the last video chat, she was unable to sit longer than ten minutes.  She walked around the room while I my unsteady hand made her bounce in and out of the video. If someone wants to try a video chat, we could schedule a special time. Her sister wants to try. We’ll see.

The progression of behavioral deficits from Alzheimer’s is organized into seven stages on the Functional Assessment Staging Test (FAST). Her behavioral deficits have declined to the bottom of Stage Six, Moderately Severe Dementia. Her mental age is 2-4 years old. In a few months she could slip into the final stage, Severe Dementia, where she would slowly lose the ability to say any words, walk, smile, sit up, or hold up her head. The last stage lasts 12-18 months.    

4 thoughts on “Never Promised a Rose Garden

  1. Anonymous June 21, 2021 / 1:37 pm


  2. Lisa Mennet June 18, 2021 / 9:35 am

    Thank you for these accounts, Jim. They are so moving.

  3. Susan June 18, 2021 / 8:14 am

    Jim, thank you for your honesty and true accounting of time with Lynne. I miss her dearly.

  4. pbejerano June 18, 2021 / 6:50 am

    Beautiful, dad. Love you!


Leave a Reply