PANDORA — We often learn about love from those who are closest to us.
In my case it was my parents, Helen and Ernie LeVan, who spent more than 60 years of their lives in West Mansfield, before moving to the Logan Acres assisted living facility in Bellefontaine. Both had dementia, Dad’s being more serious.
Dad was 95 and Mom 94 when she began having falling spells last May. She went to the hospital to get help with the intense pain from compression fractures. Five days later she moved to the nursing section on the campus, and Dad remained in their apartment. In the next couple weeks, Mom’s condition became worse after she fell more. Dad was occasionally found crying because he missed her so and was lonely.
Mom’s condition became grave, and I was staying with her. One evening the nursing staff informed me that Mom’s vital signs indicated that her body was beginning to shut down. Death would be in a few moments or a few days. After notifying the family, I wondered if I should request that the staff bring Dad over to visit her one last time.
I called assisted living around 10 that night, explained the situation and asked their opinion — if Dad should come to see her. They immediately agreed that he should. That meant the aid had to awaken Dad. We decided to tell him that Mom had asked to see him. Soon he was awake and excited to go. The aid helped him get dressed as quickly as possible, sat him in a wheelchair, and wheeled him next door.
I was watching to see them coming and Dad was beaming from ear to ear. As soon as he saw me, he said, “Now you say your mother asked for me?” He had visited her in the nursing unit several times during her stay, but she had little to say. So I assured him that she did (realizing this was a little white lie). We did not explain Mom’s terminal condition because he wouldn’t understand. As soon as he entered the room, we heard, “Hi, Sweetie. How are you? I hear you asked for me.” Mom opened her eyes and glanced at him. Her facial expression indicated she recognized him.
So the next item of business for Dad was to get up out of his wheelchair so he could give her a kiss. He got as close as possible and popped up out of his chair to lean over and kiss her. His actions were very precious to the few of us watching and we treasured the moment. Suddenly we realized Dad’s trousers fell to the floor. The aid had forgotten in the rush to put on his suspenders and we all knew what happened when he forgot them — we would be looking at him stooping to pick up his pants!
Despite the tenderness of the moment, we all burst out laughing. All but two of us — Mom and Dad. They were oblivious to the lack of suspenders! Dad managed to give her a couple kisses and when he started to sit back down, he realized what had happened and by that time someone was helping him get put back together. Our cause for humor was not noticed by either of them.
They tried to talk, but the dementia prevented conversation. He would ask how she was and she didn’t know. He asked who had visited her and she had no idea. She asked what he had been doing, and he didn’t remember. So they just looked into each other eyes and expressed what they wanted to tell each other. By then Dad was exhausted and ready to return; Mom was ready to sleep. She whispered “I love you” to which he replied, “I love you more. Good bye, honey.”
Mom surprised us all and rallied and was able to move back with Dad several days later! Neither indicated that they remembered the visit nor the touch of humor. But the people in Mom’s room realized we had witnessed true love that had spanned 65 years. They had lost so much due to the dementia, but their love would carry on.
Three weeks later, Dad died. But we were left with a special story — that was perfect for the following Valentine’s Day.