Decatur, GA USA, 6-NOV-2017 – Two months. I’ve never gone two months without posting.
I write enough about Hilary that this blog might be called Caro Babbo and Hilary, and so this post will primarily be about Hilary.
When I started writing this blog, Hilary was far along in her Alzheimer’s dementia, but she retained a lovely personality and was the star of Caro Babbo, remembered, loved and called to by everyone we met. Truly, Jennifer and I were known as the two people with Hilary.
By the time we left this year in May 2017, Hilary was disappearing. Hilary’s world was smaller and people we met would take Jennifer or me aside to tell us this was too much for two people to handle.
The toll it was taking on Jennifer was rising, and, when we returned to Port Townsend, Jennifer started to take on more than 50% of the responsibility. A different Hilary would occasionally manifest, one who would be more sarcastic and occasionally, very occasionally, strike Jennifer or me.
From Port Townsend we flew to Phoenix for three weeks, working our normal work ’til you drop schedule prepping the house for rental. We named this house The Hilary Hoffmann House.
Then we flew onto Atlanta, which is my residence.
While it had been our official goal to place Hilary in a facility and we had established a bright line to determine the criteria to do so (which we had passed months and months ago), we both knew it was time.
Jennifer has researched the different available facilities types and knew what she was looking for. Within 48 hours of looking, Hilary was in a small home-style facility here in Atlanta. The fees are such that income from Hilary’s investments can support her for the foreseeable future without needing to touch the principal.
We placed Hilary in the facility and then immediately left for a ten-day trip to New York to see my Dad for his 90th birthday. Not visiting for a couple of weeks after placement is generally recommended.
Hilary’s adaptation was not smooth. She started her stay by striking the care workers and almost getting herself tossed out. But as the days progressed she adapted. Although cognitively Hilary can not learn or remember anything, she does learn: She can easily climb on and off Caro Babbo and walk below, something that everyone needs to practice a bit before doing it easily, for example.
Does she know who Jennifer is? No. Does she remember that she knows Jennifer? Sometimes. Does she like having Jennifer visit? Always.
The New York trip without Hilary was, in a word, easy. It isn’t like it was before Hilary lived with us, yet. On the trip the spotlight of panic would sweep across each of us as we realized that Hilary wasn’t there. The occasional panic still catches us, but it is fading.
The successive Hilary’s have each, in turn, faded revealing a lesser woman each time. This Hilary is less connected to Jennifer’s mother and indeed less connected to reality.
The careworkers can be quite blunt, and there is no reason they shouldn’t be. When Jennifer asked what clothes to bring, Curline replied that Jennifer should bring them all: Hilary will be here until she dies.
There are other ways of saying just that. There are euphemistic ways and ways that imply, or even have humor, but at this point the bluntness had no sting nor stunning power, it was just an in-the-open statement of what we all know. The question to Jennifer still remained, what clothes? Despite the potential finality of this arrangement, Hilary will not need nor use all her clothes.
When we returned from New York, we took Hilary to Bob Souvorin’s house for dinner. (If you examine much of Hilary’s pottery you’ll find Bob’s signature on the bottom.) Bob is Hilary’s and Jennifer’s oldest friend. Bob was Hilary’s traveling partner; the two had traveled across China in 2007.
It had been a few years since Bob had seen Hilary. Though the dementia has progressed Hilary retains her physical appearance, and occasionally her presence.
Bob brought Hilary pottery they had exchanged over the years. Although Hilary enjoyed looked and holding it all, she had no recognition of it, nor of Bob.
I’m beginning to realize that Hilary will eventually fade into a shade and then the transformation will be complete.
Jennifer worries that she, herself, has Alzheimer’s. I don’t worry that she does nor that I do, though it runs on my mother’s side.
I’ll return this blog to being one about our sailboat Caro Babbo. Although Jennifer has aesthetic issues about naming boats after people, especially those who’s name is full of angular letters, our Portland Pudgy dinghy is the Hilary Hoffmann, so Hilary will continue to travel with us in a different form.