We all suffer when someone we love is in difficulty. I have always believed that borrowed stress is the worst kind because we who witness the illness, difficulty, anxiety or pain of the other feel helpless to make it go away. How can we help? What can we do to ease the suffering? Those spouses, life partners or grown children among us whose circumstances have pressed them into service as nurses, chauffeurs, bathers, cooks and general caretakers contend daily with the stress of such responsibilities that have been added to their own care of self and immediate family.
Today I write about someone I love whose short-term memory has begun to fail her, a brilliant, beautiful person who handily works challenging puzzles, both crossword and jigsaw, but stands in bewilderment in her kitchen wondering where she stored a utensil or serving bowl. Medical experts have tested her and assured us that her problem is not Alzheimer’s disease, which is a relief.
Fading short-term memory creeps into the lives of many of us during our mature years. So far, my own memory seems to be holding up well enough. But daily I experience its effects in the life of another. It frustrates her to have to ask me for the third time to remind her yet again of the date or time or location of some event on our family calendar or to stand in confusion in the middle of her familiar kitchen, where she has lovingly labored for 40 years, wondering where her spatula is.
That she suffers such frustration frustrates me. How I wish that I could make it better.