Recently our church family celebrated Valentine’s Day with a lovely dinner out in the elegant surroundings of a charming Italian restaurant. We have enjoyed this dinner with friends, old and new, numerous times in the past. This night seemed special. Art’s spirit was lively and animated, as he anticipated the diverse crowd he would cleverly spring his wisecracks and jokes on. His Lewy Body Dementia fanned in the background as he contemplated the evening, while the mischievous spark in his spirit hoped to prevail in its place.
Art has forgone big crowds with dinners out, for the most part, these days, as they tend to make him nervous and anxious, often leading to all kinds of unpleasantness for him. We did not even entertain the thought of attending this gathering last year. A few weeks ago Art broached the subject: “Do you want to go to the church’s Valentine’s Dinner? Last time we went I cleaned-up with prizes!” Indeed he did; with his wit, sarcasm, and humor winning out again, literally winning… as he walked away that night two years ago with more prizes for his creative answers to questions than any other person there (even with LBD). Score!! Though the short-term memory may be waning, that particular Valentine’s Day dinner never ceases to bring a smile to his normally stoic, often troubled face. So we contemplated the night’s offerings, and plunged ahead, not knowing what the day would bring for his body, emotions, memory, state of mind, balance….simply put, we went on faith that he would be able to enjoy an entertaining evening filled with warmth and laughter with a wonderful group of friends, old and new, from our loving, supportive church family. We were not to be disappointed.
Thankfully our dear friends Burt and Pauline were our chauffeurs for the event, which meant I did not have to park and navigate Art through a bustling parking lot, especially considering this particular restaurant does not have great handicapped parking (trust me, I have the best-handicapped parking for nearby restaurants well scoped out these days). We were dropped off at the front door-perfect! Once inside we were met with a barrage well-dressed bodies to maneuver. The goal: find a spot where Art could be safely out of the way and not feel too closed in by the masses. When things got too overwhelming waiting for the function room doors to open we were graciously (and most appreciatively) allowed to sneak in and sit down a few minutes ahead of everyone else. Ah….breathing room with no stress; It was peaceful and heavenly, allowing us time to regroup.
Now if you have never enjoyed a planned Valentine’s dinner event, it can be a bit daunting if you do not know many people. Ours began with a “people scavenger hunt” as a mixer. Since Art suffers from a Parkinson’s type gait with severe balance issues on any given day, I left him sitting comfortably with friends at our table with the understanding that he would not be venturing forth in a crowded room on his own; a potentially dangerous situation for him and others around him should he lose his balance and harshly plummet down to an unforgivingly hard floor, possibly taking others along with him on his descent! This sort of “people finding” activity is never his thing anyway, so off I went with my scavenger hunt paper in hand, in search of folks to fill the empty spaces (“Who has never gotten a speeding ticket? Who has the nearest birthday? Who has driven a race car?” etc…). Never once did I consider that Art would desire to leave the comfort and safety of his chair with our friends right there with him. My judgment was erroneously skewed…when I returned to our table, I was startled to discover his empty chair! Our friend told me (with a smirk on his face) that once I had wandered off Art had proclaimed, “I am going to visit some other folks since there is NO ONE here to stop me!” Moreover, off he shuffled, somewhat like a drunken sailor, wobbly yet carefree in his endeavor to seek out other friends.
As I anxiously scanned the room, I spotted him not more than a mere 20 feet away, cavorting with his choice of prime candidates to gently “harass” with his own sarcastic, provoking, sense of humor. There are times when folks who are acquaintances do not know how to take his unique brand of humor. However, this night, hearty laughter filled the air with pure joy, as the twinkle in his eyes told the story of a sense of witty accomplishment on his part. LBD was nowhere in sight. Extricating him from his appreciative audience was a formidable challenge!
Art sees an opportunity for humor in virtually almost every situation and immediately seizes upon it! The walk to and around the buffet table was fair game. Here I am, carrying two plates, filling one for me, and one for him, and instantly becoming the prime target to assail, as others chuckled at his loving verbal attacks on my “huge appetite,” brashly announcing that I was apparently leaving only meager portions for the rest of the guests to attempt to feast on…good thing I love him!!
The night progressed with more games, much continued light banter, and merriment. As I declared earlier, we were not to be disappointed. We arrived home later that evening feeling satiated; not only from the delicious food that filled our bellies, but filled with a contented inner warmth that radiated pure love and joy on our faces. I could see it on Art’s, I could feel it in mine.Times like these are not promised, especially in light of my husband’s Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis, but for one simple night, for one moment in time, we were blessed to have him be his somewhat raucous, lovingly playful self, once again. I will take it. All was good with the world that night.