Sunday, March 01, 2009

free association (beard's gone)

February 28, 2009

He looked so frail tonight, more so than usual. I wish they hadn't shaved his beard off. He looks more like his brother now than he does himself. I don't know why they had to shave his beard off. He's had it over 40 years. I wonder how his face feels to him now? Does he know? Does it itch? When he touches his face does he feel something's missing? They shouldn't have cut his beard off. They should have included me in that decision. I don't know why I feel worse about his beard than I do the cross on his forehead on Ash Wednesday, but I do. They had no business shaving him. I've never seen him without a beard except in pictures when he was young, maybe in his thirties and before. He's lost so much weight, 40 pounds or more and he loses more every day. The speech therapist changed his diet from "pureed" to "mechanical soft," also without consulting me. He can't eat that food, can't swallow, keeps it in his cheeks (called pocketing), until it falls out or he figures how to spit it out. He's so thin. It's better if he drinks a health shake, which provides nutrition, than to worry him with food he can't swallow. He's so thin, he's so so thin, and now his beard's gone. When I got there at 5:30 tonight, he was in the dining room asleep in his wheelchair. He had a paper cup of something slipping out of his hand and most of what had been in the cup was on his shirt. He wasn't the only one. Everyone was waiting for dinner. He had his red t-shirt on. He looks beautiful in red and with the beard gone his face is all pink like a baby's. I took the cup from his hand and wiped his shirt. He continued sleeping, his mouth open, then closed, then open. I don't know why they had to shave his beard off. I loved his beard. Later in bed he wakened a bit but still I couldn't get him to drink, much less eat. He knew me. When I said I love you, he said Me too, smiled a little, then went back to sleep. The sleep's from not refusing his medicine. Yesterday he refused his so ate more, at least I think that's the cause and effect. (The nurse showed me the chart, which is how I know when he did and didn't take his medicine). I can't stand that they shaved him. The first time I saw him shaved last week, I worried more about his face itching and how it would feel as it grew back than anything else. Everybody said how great he looked and he did look great, but now they did it again and so unexpectantly. That's what they do with men in the mornings, one nurse told me. Maybe so, but not to men with beards. Darn it. I wonder how he feels when he's being shaved. It's not as if he doesn't have feelings anymore. He's still Abe, and I'm still Esther. I don't know him without a beard. I didn't know he had little veins in his face or that his ears stuck out like that. I didn't know there was all that vulnerability under a beard. I didn't ever know men were so vulnerable as that.

read more of Witnessing Alzheimer's


Posted by Esther Altshul Helfgott at 3/1/09 11:57 a.m.

This isn't true free association. In that process, I include all thoughts and images that come to mind. I include dreams and pictures, colors, tastes and smells. I wouldn't use upper case or punctuation. Lines, words and sentences fall over each other. It's difficult to read.

But here you may get an idea of what happens when I suggest that students free associate on the page to see what themes they are thinking about. There's always plenty of material that emerges, and in the unconscious, of course, there is infinity.

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