July 12, 2024
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July 12, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Coming to Terms With my Dementia

We have been living in Teaneck/Bergenfield for almost five years. We moved in on the day that Hurricane Sandy struck. The truth is, it wasn’t so bad. We lived in our daughter’s house for a few weeks and she had electricity on and off for a while. During the storm a tree came down on our house but caused little damage and the insurance company settled it quickly. And we slowly settled into our new home and our new life.

Living in New Jersey was a drastic change for me and my wife. The truth is I gave up a lot to move here. Aside from living in Montreal for almost a lifetime, I was very active, involved and loved being in Canada. I was excited about teaching in college, beginning my psychology practice and getting very active in the rabbinate. For a couple of years I was the president of Nefesh: The International Association of Orthodox Mental Health Professionals. It was a wonderful part of my/our life. While I was doing my things, my wife was likewise doing hers—being very active in the shul, being a powerhouse in the Jewish community, running an amazing Israel fair for several years and doing all kinds of unbelievable things. Those were great years. But then, after many years, I realized that while I loved teaching and my students loved me, I started to feel that I couldn’t think as quickly as I did, was having difficulty coming up with things, and realized that I wasn’t doing my students a favor. And so I sadly retired from teaching. I continued with my psychology practice for a year or two and was active in my shtiebel. Our last couple of years were difficult, though. I went through a period of over a year of experiencing sudden “drop” attacks where I would be walking and suddenly fall. It was very embarrassing and I never found out why it was happening. I have since found out that I was probably experiencing mini-strokes. Having been hospitalized several times was creating difficulties for our children who would take turns turning their own lives upside down to be with us, aside from the few times that they likewise had to run in when our daughter Naama was facing very serious medical issues.

While all of this was happening, I didn’t realize that I was beginning a very new, difficult and different part of our lives. Nina began talking about moving to Teaneck, where two of our children were living, and being close to our son in Brooklyn. We were a bit worried about what to do with Naama. We looked into group homes in the New York area but quickly realized that we could never find a replacement for the unbelievable frum and wonderful group home that Nina began together with several women more than 20 years ago. (She continued as its president for several years after we moved!) Some of the workers who were there when the home started are still there, loving it and making it the incredible place that it is. But we sadly decided to move.

The move was difficult for both of us, but most especially for Nina. It was terrible for her to move away from our friends, her activities, her involvement in a million different things to a community where the average age was a little over half our age. She was very unhappy for quite a while. While being so close to many of our grandchildren was wonderful—in a sense it was also a disappointment for us. All the years we lived in Montreal we saw them many, many times—and they were always exciting times for us and them. But then we moved to Teaneck and it wasn’t quite so exciting any more. But things fortunately are getting better. Nina has been working at The Jewish Link and she is beginning to make some friendships and is slowly getting somewhat more involved. But it is still a big jump from our life in Montreal. Someone once said that getting older is not for sissies; that is certainly true and especially so moving to a different country where you know virtually no one except your kids and grandchildren.

Somehow for me it was less difficult. I certainly miss all the wonderful things I had in my “former” life, but I feel overwhelmingly grateful that I have my aishet chayil by my side. Nevertheless, I am experiencing more problems than I had before. I have retired from pretty much everything, and have come to grips with my radically changed life. My neurologist told me a couple of years ago that I am dealing with vascular dementia. She initially said I may be getting Alzheimer’s, but fortunately I am blessed with the more “normal” type of dementia. I have always had a poor memory, but now it is much more difficult. I am constantly losing things—once my wife came to me and told me, “Guess what I found in the refrigerator? Your glasses.” (Or was it my wallet?) I don’t recognize people and know very little about them, even having spoken to them many times. The worst part of that is not being able to establish friendships. There is one man in Teaneck who always introduces himself to me every time I see him. It’s wonderful—Etzie, you are an amazing person—because I probably would not remember you otherwise! Thank you so very much. I wish more people would do that or be more friendly, though I realize it’s difficult. In the meantime, I enjoy all the wonderful things I have—my wonderful children, amazing grandchildren and growing numbers of great-grandchildren (though I do have some difficulty remembering some of their names). I learn very little now, though I do have a wonderful weekly chavruta with a childhood friend—fortunately we are together in Tea­neck—Simcha Katz (as a child I knew him as Steve) and his wife, Pesh, are the best. I do some volunteer work at Shearit Haplate, go to the gym a few times a week, make great use of the library and very much enjoy watching the birds enjoying themselves at our bird feeder. I do miss, though, having friends. Thank you to all the people in shul (Beth Abraham) whom I know I know, but don’t know who they are. Please know that I am not ignoring you—I love you all.

Overall, life is wonderful. It is beautiful outside and inside. We are blessed with a wonderful deck in the back of our house that I spend lots of time enjoying, and, believe it or not, I am grateful for the people I have gotten to know (even though somewhat superficially and probably without knowing their names). Life is great, despite all of its challenges. I don’t understand anything about life or the universe or the purpose of anything but am overwhelmingly grateful for being part of it—and most especially for my wife.

Editor’s note: Nina’s addendum is linked here, and pasted here below Rabbi Dr. Glick’s article. 

If I May?

By Nina Glick

Upon arriving home from my office at The Jewish Link several days ago I found the above article waiting for me on the computer. I gulped and cried as I read it. That an individual can be as honest and forthright as my beloved Mordechai about something that is difficult and painful to deal with is typical of the man I married and the way we have chosen to live our lives together. We notice the sun, the trees and the beauty of the clouds most days. We are grateful for every facet of our lives and feel good for what we have accomplished together.

As we have said many times in the past, no one has any guarantees of what life will bring them. At this moment in our lives we are grateful for everything that we have. We are able to enjoy and share the things that I think many make no notice of. We giggle and chuckle at things that only the two of us would appreciate after having shared so many experiences. We are looking forward to continuing this routine for a very long time. So far so good. Other than the fact that my Mordechai might by chance put the keys in the refrigerator, which, by the way, only happened once last year, and might not feel comfortable publicly speaking any longer, as well as doing many other activities that were part of his everyday life, we should all learn from his example of being totally satisfied with his lot. It has definitely been a challenge to live with such a positive, sincere and loving person for the past 52 years. It is hard to complain to someone who always sees the bright and light in every situation. Yet, I would never change anything. We joke about his total loss of hearing in one ear and partial loss of hearing in the other ear. I always tell him that it is a shame that he doesn’t hear at least half of the times that I tell him that I love him. Are we not the most fortunate couple that you know? I wish all of you for the coming year just an ounce of the wondrousness of the relationship that we have had in our marriage. Shana Tova U’metuka to all.

 

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