For those with cognitive decline, everything is about time. Is it morning or is it night? Is my watch still working? What time is it? Did I take my morning pills, my afternoon pills or my evening pills? Did I eat breakfast? What did I have for lunch? What day is it? When is the doctor coming? When are we leaving? When will you return?
It would be quite enough to deal with, for family members, if these questions were asked once a day. But as someone who has almost no memory, does not remember a) asking the question or b) what you responded, it is a never- ending cycle. Only distraction can stop their brains from repeatedly asking the same questions.
Hubby is always worried that his watch has stopped working. It is not an unreasonable concern as the chrome watch that looks like a Bulgari, but is not, winds itself when it is on a human, but not when on a table. It was probably not the best purchase decision I have ever made. However, that is part of this story which I absolutely must record for posterity. This is complicated by Hubby’s insistence that his watch be set ten minutes ahead. There is no purpose to this. It does however further complicate his ability to check the time on his watch against the clock we place in front of him daily.
A man has less ways to show his success than a woman. Men who wear diamonds on their pinky finger are considered flamboyant, but a man who drives a Lexus, a Rolls Royce, a Jaguar, or a Lincoln Continental is looked at with appreciation. For years, a tie was the only way a man could show his own personality or taste. A bow tie was a major statement indeed. Now, men wear designer logos, custom tailored suits, expensive bags and exquisite shoes (unless they are content with the comfort of Nike and their competitors.) The ultimate symbol of achievement is a man’s watch.
For a very long time, twenty- or thirty-years employment in a corporation, resulted in the gift of a gold watch in appreciation. To those for whom the purchase of such a treasure was beyond their wildest imagination, it was very special and worn with great pride. I suspect this is no longer a tradition, as the only people who now stay in a job for a long time are those who actually created the business!
As I have mentioned in previous chapters, Hubby was born into poverty. He worked his way up the career ladder in the world of fashion and along with that came the symbols of success. He needed those. They were a measure of his achievement.
What I did not realize at the time, is that when a man buys his wife diamonds or a fur coat…it is not really about her. It is about him. The husband will be admired for being generous to his wife and for being in a position to give her luxuries. We thought it was about what wonderful partners we were on the “yellow brick road” of life surprise! I always understood Hubby’s needs and he understood mine, and my insecurities.
Wife number one had given Hubby a Longines gold watch. They were long-ago divorced, but the wedding ring remained in his jewelry box and the watch was still on his wrist. He would joke about its sentimental value just to irritate me. The watch was my nemesis and I had no intention of looking at it every day for the rest of our marriage. I have vague recollections of how I disposed of the ring.
On a mission to the former Soviet Union, we ended up in Nice, France to give an award to the amazing painter, Chagall. He lived in Vence, and hence we stayed nearby. Unfortunately, he passed away while we were in the USSR and we had to give the award posthumously to his wife. While in Nice, Hubby walked by a lovely jewelry store window displaying a gold watch with a royal blue face. He was mesmerized. “Let’s just take a look” he said, and within seconds we were seated with velvet display boards placed in front of us. Hubby was in love. Business was good, and I seized the moment and bought the watch for him.
The next day we had a cruise on the sea with our group. When we returned to our hotel room, Hubby asked about his old gold watch. “Where is it?” he asked.
“In the Mediterranean.” Was my response. He could not imagine that I was telling the truth. But I was. I dropped it into the sea on our cruise. I would never have to look at it again.
Now that I am older and wiser, I realize that I should have told him that I dropped it in the sea, and could have sold it instead. I never had devious thoughts like that at the age 36. Such a shame, but what can one do? We get older…and wiser!
Hubby wore the new watch every day for about twenty years. One day, it disappeared. It fell of his wrist when he was taking clothes to the local laundry, never to be seen again. We searched his route and reported it to the police. All to no avail.
Hubby was in mourning. I literally ran out and bought the watch he is still wearing today. No one should be watch-less. It is a quality chrome watch, but next to the gold one, it was “junk.” Enough was enough. I thought the watch was handsome. It was not inexpensive. He would have to adjust! He began wearing the replacement, and I began searching to replace his gold watch. It was no longer in production so I started checking auction sites. One day many years later, Sotheby’s auction house contacted me that the watch from my inquiry, was about to be auctioned. I purchased it for about one-sixth of the original price. A bargain. He was thrilled, but now we keep it for good. Does anyone still use that term? “For Good?” My grandmother of blessed memory kept her expensive china and silver “for good.” I cannot remember ever having the honor of eating with or on either. Sometimes “for good” never arrives!
Fast-forward another twenty years and Hubby is still wearing the chrome watch. The gold one is locked away. I did not think that Hubby even remembered that it existed.
A pin which holds the chrome watch band sections together, fell out and this watch fell off his wrist just as the gold one had. This time we found the watch and the pin so it can live to see another day. Now it is “Wifey’s” responsibility to get it fixed. This is at least the third time I have had this honor. Hubby is angry with me that I have not rushed out immediately…to get it repaired. I do have other things on my mind as well. His priorities and my own… rarely intersect.
Suddenly Hubby said:
“Where is my OTHER watch?” I was stunned. My immediate reaction was:
“What other watch?”
Then I remembered the one locked away. How is it possible that Hubby could remember the gold watch when he cannot remember anything else? But he did.
He wore it today to his daycare club. In the old days (Hubby has been attending for six years), I would not allow him to continue wearing it, after other men commented on how much the watch must have cost. In those days, Hubby had no filter and might easily have told them. Today there is no risk of that conversation as his pals are not as sharp as they once were.
He returned from his club a few minutes ago and noticed that he was wearing the “good” watch and asked to whom it belonged.
“It is yours, of course.” I replied.
“Did you have to pay for it?” He asked.
Yes, you were with me when we bought it!”
“Was it expensive?”
“You betcha!” was my simplistic response.
Hubby did not blink an eye. It is quite okay if his boy-toys are expensive, after all at the age of 95 he quite deserves them. But then again, he always felt that he did. As I might have mentioned once or twice before, the ego stays intact when all else fails.
Dementia is one of the strangest conditions in the world. Unpredictable. Inconsistent. But then it’s all a matter of time!