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He Puts Things in His Mouth

Way back, when one of Bob's doctors put him into visiting hospice care, a social worker came by the house to go through a list of hospice questions and points to make. When we got to the end, he said, "Do you have any questions about hospice or Bob or anything?"

I said, "He chews on his sheet. I tell him not to but he still does it."

"Yeah," he said. "I've seen that sort of thing before. It's like babies who are teething. It gives them comfort."

It was that simple. I just stopped telling Bob not to do it because if it was giving him some joy, then I wasn't going to take that away from him. My only issue and concern was that he might chew off a hunk, get it caught in his throat and choke. So now, instead of my usual, "Don't do that" type of comment, I started gently pushing his hand and the sheet away from his mouth. Then, replacing it with a sip of water or other distraction.

That was way back in 2021. Picture our bedroom linen closet. Nearly every sheet has holes from Bob chewing on them.

But now, I've noticed other hand-to-mouth issues arising. I wrote previously about Bob's contracture and another post called Invisible Things He Sees. I'm telling you about these two posts because I think they're related. The contracture post talks about a physical reaction to dementia. While Invisible Things He Sees, deals mostly with some cognitive misfiring he experiences.

The cognitive misfiring manifests itself this way: he holds some invisible (to me) objects and when I open my palm to take whatever they are, he drops these things into my hand. I write in plural because, whatever he drops into my hand, he flakes them off with his fingers--flakes off as though they feel gritty or crumbly.

So, yesterday, right after dinner, I get him up to go potty. He did the thing he always does with his hands, holding whatever invisible thing he sees which hinders him while he walks from supporting him self on drawers or the counter.

When we stopped in the bathroom to take off his briefs, this happened...

I said my usual, "Here honey, I'll hold it for you."

This time, he dropped it, sort of reluctantly into my hand. "Don't worry. I'll keep it here in this pocket."

Then, suddenly another invisible thing appeared in his hand but this time, he lifted his hand, opened his lips, and slowly put it inside his mouth. Remember, now, we had just eaten dinner and had a cookie for dessert.

I don't know why I did or said this but, "Are you still hungry?" I asked. "Wait, I have another one." I reached in my pocket, brought out the invisible food he gave me seconds before, opened my hand, held it up and he put his mouth onto my hand. Like a baby kiss--those open-mouthed-absent-of-pursing kisses babies give you? And when you pull away from a baby's face, their mouth is still open?

Just like that.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, 3 and said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me." ~Matthew 18

That's how he kisses me now--absent of pursing. I pull away and for a second or two, his mouth still holds the memory of a kiss on his lips, on his face.

I wonder what happens that makes a person forget how to kiss. I wonder what switch inside the brain loses its spark. Goes dull. And it's not that I don't enjoy Bob's baby kisses. I do, but I also miss his husband kisses. The longing for him as he was before is the overarching emotion I have most days. The memory of Bob--a vibrant, active, funny, intelligent husband.

But if not for how he is now, I would never have known what his mother must have seen. Bob the child. A child who gave her baby kisses. Now, I get his baby kisses.

I'll have to tell you next week about one time when he forgot who I was. I'll post that one Monday. It's sweet and heartbreaking, all at the same time.

And, about those sheets? My friends all know that I will keep them for as long as I live.

Until then, God bless you all.

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