Aug 2nd 2008

Izzy and I, traveling to other dimensions

Posted in Izzy, Other

August 2, 2008 – I feel sometimes as if Izzy and I are time travelers, going from one dimension – my life – into another, the realm of the dying. People and their families ought not to experience death alone, and Izzy is doing his bit. People ask me all the time what I think is going on with Izzy, how does he connect the way he does, why do people respond to him the way they do, and I always think the same thing – I don’t know.
  Two things stand out. His ability to focus on people, and let them love him, and the quite extraordinary reaction of people to him. Carolyn, a loving and hard working nurse said the whole ward has changed since Izzy began visiting. Everyone is calmer, happier. I can see it.
  I have to say, these travels are among the most fascinating and jarring of my life, and I am nothing but grateful for them.
  Our work has become ritualized, in a good way. We go into homes and nursing homes, and we are welcome. My dog is welcome, my camera is welcome and I am welcome.  Always. And trusted. And that means a lot.
  We visit Marion, then we drift into the common rooms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, the hallways, lounges, dining rooms. Alarms are always going off – packs patients carry if they tilt or move suddenly. They are almost always false, but the nurses always go running, back and forth.
  These alarms give a surreal air to these wards. So do some of the patients yelling, some shouting angrily, others for help they don’t need. I talk to the nurses, and see how hard they work, and hear amazing stories about their lives and struggles, and they give me tips on how to communicate. Now, we are known – the patients clearly know us – and they light up when we come in. And there is laughter, smiling, talk. I try and bring cookies or pies for the nurses. I admire them, greatly. They work hard. They are patient, they counsel patience.
  My girl friend Jo proposed to me the other day, asked me if I wanted to get married, and today, when I came in, she was waiting for me, asked me if I had considered the proposal. “What about it?,” she said. “I’m not getting any older.”
  Sure, I said, let’s do it, let’s get married. I could not, I say, be luckier. But I am a lot older than you, she said. We’ll deal with that later. And let’s plan to dance at the wedding, I said, can you dance still?
  Sure, she said, what do you think?
  And she and  her friend Min began putting together a guest list, including some of their fellow patients. Stan would not be invited, as he is messy with meals, and grumpy. Angela would be a bridesmaid. And, said Jo, can my husband come?
  Sure, I said, as long as he didn’t shoot me. And there were hoots of laughter, and the clapping of hands, and eyes were rolled. That is a nice dog, said Jo. When I was younger, I was afraid of dogs, afraid they would bite me. But Izzy wouldn’t bite me, would he?
  No, I said, he wouldn’t.
  When I was four, Jo said.
  When I was four, that was when I thought dogs would bite me.