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Last year I put up lights along the roof of our house, but found that Ken would turn them off as quickly as I turned them on.  I couldn’t imagine why he wanted them off, especially when we would drive through the neighborhood where he admired the Christmas scenes on other people’s lawns and beautifully lite homes.  Yet, he insisted that our house remain dark.

Recalling how he felt, yet wanting our house to look a little festive, I strung lights around the posts on the front porch and let it go at that.  Still, we played the off and on game.  Tonight, after standing on the porch surveying the other houses nearby, he came in from the cold extremely annoyed because “those” people had their Christmas lights on and there was nothing he could do about.  I agreed with him saying,  “That’s right.  There is nothing you can do about other people having lights on their roof and Christmas scenes in their front yard.”  Then I asked, “Why does it bother you so much.”  He had a difficult time formulating why he was so annoyed, but finally he was able to express his fear — and it was fear.

Looking very troubled he said, “When all those lights are on along the street there are criminals who will take advantage of it and will rob the houses.”   Surprised at his reasoning, I asked, “What has happened in the past to make you believe that our neighbors, or us, have been robbed during Christmas?”

Glancing at me with a show of contempt and suspicion he continued, “You don’t live here all the time so you wouldn’t know what happens in this neighborhood.”  Then he laughed, a mocking kind of laugh and said, “Just you wait.” 

He had become Mr. Hyde in the blink of an eye and I was no longer his wife.  He followed with, “Ask my wife about it when she comes home.  She can tell you about all that goes on around here because of the lights.”  Then he gave me another look that said, “I know something you don’t know,” which is a match for the “Just-you-wait” laugh.

As I have previously mentioned, Ken’s Alzheimer’s has created three distinct personalities:  Mr. Hyde who can be charming, friendly and is married, can also be mean, ruling and combative.   Buddy, around 12. a good boy devoted to his parents and his sister, Loretta, is obedient to the rules of their home.    When Buddy believes he has been left in charge he too can become combative.  I make every effort to maintain a guest-like attitude,which keeps peace in the house.  Of course, Ken, even in his forgetting, is the remaining third personality.  When he is my husband, it’s  the bright spot of my day.

When Mr. Hyde appears, it’s often with some sort of  paranoid disagreement.  Anger shows on his face and he begins his conversation with an accusation or argument.  That’s when I know it’s time for me to take the low road.  “Our discussion is closed,” I reply.  He doesn’t want to let his mood go attempting to provoke me into a further argument while still embracing his fears and paranoia.  The fear is real and I never try to scoff it away, but coaxing him into the family room is a distraction which often works.   Watching TV, looking at the Christmas tree and hearing me prepare dinner is relaxing and seems to quiet the angry mood.

It’s good to discover why he doesn’t like the lights, and I’m grateful when I hold my tongue.  It’s far better to remember how my husband enjoyed the Holiday and how pleased he was the first time we hung lights along the edge of the roof when his only fear might have been falling off the ladder.    2008

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