Wish You Were Here
By Gwendolyn de Geest, RN, BSN, MA

I am sitting in the restaurant having lunch with my husband, Howard. But Howard’s not here.

We ordered our lunch; Minestrone soup (Howard’s favorite), Caesar salad, a nice panini bread, and tea. Howard excused himself, “I have to go to the bathroom Dear.”

“Alright,” I responded. The soup came; I didn’t want to start without Howard, but I was hungry. I finished my soup, still no sign of my husband. The salads arrived, still no Howard. The food items have taken on a secondary importance.

By now, I’m beginning to wonder. I asked our waiter, “Excuse me, would you please check on my husband? He’s been in the men’s room for a very long time.”

The young man complied, and reported back to me, “Your husband says to tell you that he has to wait for his friend. In fact, the two of them are engaged in conversation.”

“I don’t understand,” I replied. “Howard went to the bathroom alone.”

By now, the young man could see that I was becoming anxious. With a sigh, he said, “Okay, Madam, I’ll check on him once again if you like.”

And he did so. When he reported back to me, it was the most confusing and frightening message I have ever received.

“Your husband is talking to his friend in the mirror. He told me to tell you he can’t join you for lunch until his friend is ready.”

Peggy and Howard met nearly 45 years ago at a University dance. Peggy was studying Nursing, and Howard, Civil Engineering. Peggy said, “I knew I was going to marry that guy, when he offered to take me home from the dance, with a bus ticket he found on the dance floor.” They married three years later; two children followed, a son and a daughter.

“Wish You Were Here” is a true story. Howard is in early stage Alzheimer’s disease. From the moment of diagnosis, his wife, Peggy, family members and friends are thrown into a state of turmoil, attempting to understand and attach meaning to what is happening to this person, Howard, they once knew.

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