Softly, And Without Joy

I saw her from my back deck.

She was walking through their yard.  Behind our yard.

She was calling for her husband.

Too close to the creek, I thought.

I knew he would be close by but obviously unaware of her searching.

She got out without him knowing.

I descended my deck to my yard, walked towards her, calling her name.  She kept looking around.  Not capable of pinpointing sound and direction.

I caught up to her as she called his name again.  I could hear the irritation in her voice.

I told her I bet he was inside.

She said no, he was outside cutting the grass.

But that’s where we were, and he was not.

I talked her into walking with me to the front of the house.  To see if he was out front, looking for her.  I chatted with her about the warmth of the day, and the current excitement about the eclipse.  She said yes I’ve been watching some about it on tv.  She started looking around, unsure.

I said again, as if for the first time, lets see if he’s in front of the house.

He wasn’t.  She kept saying he was cutting the grass.

We stepped into the open garage, where the car sat.  Where the tools of caring for his home are stored.

Gently, I pointed out in a surprised tone, look, there’s the lawn mower.  He must be done.  And smiled softly.

She said oh maybe he is.

I reached up to the door entering the home from the garage and tried the door knob.  It was locked.  That wasn’t the door she left by.  I saw movement and he came to the door.

His eyes were quite large when he saw me, with his wife just over my shoulder.

He opened the door.  He is thin.  Too thin.  Too tired.  Too alone.

I told him we thought he was cutting the grass and she said roughly “where have you been?”

He said, still surprised “I’ve been making supper”.  I could see the questions rushing through his silent inquisition.  How did she get out?  Why didn’t he hear her?  Oh my God, it’s happened again.

I stepped back and said she thought he was out back cutting the grass.  But he must have finished.  Letting him know that is what I had told her.

He reached down to take her arm to assist her as she took the two steps up from the garage to the house entrance.

As she stepped past him he said soundlessly ‘thank you‘.

I smiled at him.

Softly, and without joy.

There is nothing I can say to his fears and his loss and his constant vigil.

My smile.  His soundless thanks.

The things we really mean.


73 thoughts on “Softly, And Without Joy

  1. Thanks to you for being there in her time of need and his too. You kept her safe! It is sad and frightening too, to have a spouse who is changing and needing so much more care than usual. I hope he will pursue help from their family or Elder Care Assistance. Another person can be helpful in filling part of her day with conversation, chores, or even crafts so that the husband can get some needed rest or work done. It was fortunate you were in the right place in her time of need. You are a kind and thoughtful neighbor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You pinpoint much of what I feel.

      Assistance is being sought. Some is already in place. Sadly, there is a process to getting some of the help.

      THank you for your kind words. I am just one of many. People are full of goodness.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, your story was so heartbreaking for me , but then so heartwarming, and your gentle care brought tears to my eyes, well done Colleen, and I’ve so much empathy for both of your neighbours…….


    • Thank you Robin, I am one of many. It’s so hard to watch the struggle. The other day when something similar played out, I talked her into walking around the house. She was arguing with her husband, calling him her brother and demanding to see her husband.
      The pain in his eyes was so hard to see. I indicated to him to walk the other way. While I walked with her I asked her how much she loved her husband. Her face softened to pure happiness and she said “oh I really do”. We walked to the front, he came from the other direction and I said “there he is!” She was so elated to see him. And couldn’t understand where he had been. Less than a minute and to see her love, her confusion, and his heart break was pretty overwhelming for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I will be honest, alheizmers is the disaese I feel is the most cruel and fear the most. To go from knowing what is right, who you are and your family to being completely lost without warning …. The toll it takes on the family is overwhelmingly sad.


        • I worked in Adult Protective Services for 15 years. You are right. It is one of my biggest fears as well. It is heart breaking to watch. I’ve been blessed to see angels at work in some situations, and horrified to see the devil at work in others. And I just truly believe there is a cure, or preventative…..and hope for it to be soon.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Having had personal and work experience of all forms of dementia it is often the carers who get forgotten. It is such a cruel thing to experience and there is no one solution for all, each experience is different. We have an increasing awareness here in the UK, and a network of Dementia Friends, and Dementia champions, all designed to educate people on how to react, help, and ease the burden for those living with dementia, and their carers. I do so hope that research finds a lasting solution to this increasing problem. Thank you Colleen for being such a fine example. May we all manage to care when we see the need.


  4. My heart breaks for him. Dementia is cruel. My mother forgot who I was. She would introduce me to people as her best friend. Still stung. I’m glad you and your neighbours are there for them both. They need you.


  5. My dad has dementia. My mom is his caretaker and they live in another state. The assisted living places in Lancaster won’t take a couple if one has dementia. My mom is so exhausted. I can’t move.


    • Phyllis, that makes no sense. They ‘used’ to. The whole point of assisted living is that they assist people who need it, to live!! There is usually a level system of needs a person requires from them. Of course, the more assistance a person needs, the more it costs. I’ve never heard of assisted living having a flat refusal if one of a couple has dementia. 😦 That really shocks me.


  6. Oh Colleen I went through this repeatedly when I lived in Hamilton with a dear neighbor until he was able to get her into a home. I rescued my woman more than once and am glad you were there for this dear one and her husband.


  7. Awh, so sad. Thank God for you helping her (and him.) God bless that couple.
    And btw, I’m only telling you of all my blog buddies: my tv debut is next week, M-F on EWTN. The show is called Women of Grace. Not sure if you get that channel, but I’m pretty sure it will be posted on the Women of Grace website, too, at some point. Maybe youtube also.


  8. I am so glad you wrote this, carefully outlining the way to guide safely home someone who is lost inside their head.
    My Mom lives in a safe place now but in the last nursing facility she wandered out in January, 2017. Found lying under a bush, looking for a lost child she told someone. It was dark, she got pneumonia but now, she pays for a very expensive place. I am thankful for the most part, the people care.
    When asked if I would go live with my Mom in her lake house four years before she went to the second last place, I knew I could guide others (as an activity director of nursing home in 1994-99) but could never fully do this with a family member. My brothers assumed I would like to make some of the money from not placing her but no, thank you. I love my Mom but she is very independent and it is too challenging to try and patiently guide her to meals or bathroom. Maybe a spouse could buy yes, this worn out husband needs a helper!!


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