His big strong hands are smaller now yet he holds his tools correctly, most of the time, and even handles them the right way. What has changed is their intended purpose. Nathan, a friend, recently made Gary a “project board” with a variety of Phillips-head screws partly screwed in, so today, when I handed him the screwdriver, he began working on getting them all the way in. He enjoys holding his favorite hand tools. They went back and forth from his right hand to his tool belt countless times a day for an entire career. In the “old days,” he didn’t need to look to see where the duckbill pliers or the wire strippers were. He could reach down, like a gunfighter, and grab them as needed. Now, standing at the kitchen counter, with his wooden project board of screws, he is content and has been for 45 minutes. The goal is very short. Turn the screw.
One of the 4 parts of human thinking, is “Executive Function.” This is what it sounds like, the ability to plan, make decisions, sort, and multi-task. Someone with A.D. may have this part extremely inhibited, as does Gary. Therefore, he is easily distracted from the task of “turning the screws” and, still using the screwdriver, may decide to twist it rapidly, like a drill, making a small hole in the tile, or using the defrosting sausage package, pry off the paper label then press it (the label) on the project board, weaving the strip of paper amongst the half installed screws. He even may poke with the screwdriver into the partly thawed sausage. In the last 45 minutes, Gary has done all of these things. His heart is happy. He is not frustrated, or “missing out” on what he wished he could do. He has no “wishes, or “longings,” that I can tell. He is enjoying handling and using his old friend, the Phillips head screwdriver.
One of the things I had to get over, and am still trying to get over, during this adventure of the last few years, was the wishing and hoping that Gary could do satisfying little projects. You know, things that you’d give the grandkids at Christmas, like a simple craft you could buy at Michaels. But, if he enjoys hearing the sound of the tip of the screwdriver tap repeatedly on the edge of his piece of wood, or the sausage package, or the tile, for that matter, and God has allowed him to retain the ability to be pleased with the process, however simplified that is, then I need to be at peace with that. (at least I am today)
One of my favorite books on the topic, says dementia patients don’t lose their own dignity, rather, others take it from them. I love and respect my husband, so I write these things to say Gary is an amazing man. He has done and IS doing amazing things. God gave Gary the ability to use tools to create some incredible things. He LOVED working hard on some new “idea.” Right now, he is LOVING removing the screws from the little piece of wood. As Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” James wrote: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” Gary’s mind, was given to him by God. Now it is being taken away. But look how kind and gracious God is. We live in a fallen world, where every one of us is mortal and will die of something. Yet, for now, He has allowed my dear husband to work diligently with his tool for over an hour. An hour well spent. I believe that this is pleasing to God, who loves Gary far more than I ever could and has great plans for him.