yesterday i went to visit my friend olga. she’s around my age, but came down with alzheimer’s nearly a decade ago. alzheimer’s is a progressive and debilitating disease that is known for memory loss and what i’m learning as i spend time with her is that it’s a very lonely place to be.
she gives me a huge smile when i enter her visual space. there’s a twinkle in her eyes and her smile is to die for. it’s a lot like the smile a baby gives you when you say ‘boo’ or ‘oh’ – it’s pure and fills you with joy.
but she doesn’t recognize me, at least that’s what i’ve been told, but sometimes i think she does. and because she can’t talk anymore, i carry on a monologue, imagining what she might be thinking, and i do a lot of touching. lately, i’m not so sure there’s a lot that she’s thinking. so i play her some music, and we dance with our arms. you see, she can’t stand either. her mind can’t remember how to walk or talk.
alzheimer’s is a disease that takes you back to infancy. she can’t remember how to go to the bathroom so she’s in diapers all the time and has to be lifted by a mechanical device in and out of bed. one day she won’t remember how to chew her food, and eventually she won’t be able to swallow. olga, in her sweet, silent way, reminds me i have so much to be grateful for.
a friend once asked me, “if she can’t talk, and she has no clue that you’re there, why do you keep visiting? she’s not going to care if you visit or not.”
i visit because love is an action. love isn’t about expecting something in return. love is something that is created through the heart. yes, it’s a feeling, but it goes beyond a feeling, it’s a force, an energy that connects you to others. love doesn’t compare, or demand, it simply grows through action and understanding.
mind or no mind, memory or no memory, words or no words, everyone still needs love and everyone deserves to be loved.
olga may not know that i’m there, but i know she’s there. and the love i have for her understands why i return.