Last night I was sitting outside talking to an 83 year old gentleman who suffers from Alzheimer’s. He is extremely hard of hearing, which added to his current state of confusion, makes for interesting conversation.
“Would you like some coffee?”I asked.
“Do you have butterscotch?” He replied.
“No sir. I said, would you like some coffee?”, repeating myself very loudly.
“You say salt water taffy? Yes. I like it. Where is it?”
I know I am from the south, and I do have a bit of an accent ;coffee...taffy…hmmmm, maybe. I decided to assume he would like coffee and went in and made several cups for all of those sitting outside in the night air.
“Here is your coffee, be careful, it is hot.” I spoke generally to all listening and watched carefully as they all sipped happily on their freshly brewed cup of Joe.
As we sat there, sipping, conversing and watching the Virginia mosquitoes zip about, one of the ladies leaned over and directed a question to the gentleman.
“Do you have a wife?”
Do I what?
“I said, do you have a wife, a wife.”
“A limited life? Yes. I have a limited life. You only get one shot at it. You have a limited life too, don’t you?”
Silence filled the air. Even the mosquitoes paused to absorb what Mr. Harvey had just said.
Many people underestimate the cognitive ability of those with dementia, We assume because they are elderly with impaired cognition, that they do not have mental capability to process or generate profound thoughts. I do not subscribe to that theory and here is why.
First of all, psychologists have proven the two existing types of intelligence; fluid and crystallized.
Fluid intelligence involves reasoning, memory, and information-processing skills. Crystallized intelligence is a combination of information, skills, and strategies learned through experience.
Secondly, wisdom is learned through experience. It can not be measured by IQ tests or any other assessment tool. As we age, our fluid intelligence does slow down, but crystallized intelligence is only mildly affected.
Mr. Harvey’s hearing is certainly gone, but his wisdom is spot on. Life is limited. It is limited for him. Limited for those sitting out on the patio. Limited for me. Limited for you. He is also right about ” only getting one shot at it.” What we choose today can not be undone tomorrow. One shot. One life. Live it well.