My 81-year old twin

Posted on August 31, 2016


I met Jean* and her daughter, Alice* for coffee at a nearby Starbucks today. Jean loves the ‘Bucks cappuccino as do I! I saw her sitting at a table while her daughter was getting their beverages. Jean looked so elegant in her black broad-legged linen capris and matching shirt. She wore a loose denim cape shirt over it and a beautiful, long beaded necklace. She had on a grey, men’s fedora, one I would have chosen for myself! And her glasses were a deep sea green, funky just like I’d wear. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I told her so. She blushed. It was hard to believe that Jean is living with a variant of Frontotemporal Dementia, notorious for it’s so-called difficult behaviours. I silently thanked the doctors who had managed to find the sweet spot in her medications.

We talked about the economy and how much she detested the big city drama. She’s said, “I’m a small town girl from New Brunswick. The water is my life.” She shared so openly about her life as an artist and how acutely she feels the loss of not being able to paint, “I am not so good at it anymore.” I asked why and she replied, “My body is changing.” I was surprised at this response; I guess I am very used to people with dementia not having insight. She quickly changed the topic and told me that she has recently discovered her love for jigsaws. Just last week, she finished a 100-piece mind-bender herself. She’s going to get it framed, “I worked hard on it. It’s gotta go up the wall. If they (retirement home) don’t want it, I’ll keep it.”

I asked her about her favourite music and she said, “It’s all fallen out of my head. But I love dancing.” I love dancing too, I told her. She got up, right there, in the middle of the ‘Bucks and showed me some of her moves. The disinhibition is characteristic of her dementia and I am inclined to believe, of her too. I asked her about the music again. Alice shared that Jean loves Sinatra and Dean Martin. Suddenly, Jean said, “Cowboy hat!” We couldn’t understand what she was saying. She struggled to find her words and complete her thought in all earnestness, “Dear God, please,” she begged with palms joined and eyes looking upward. Alice and I looked on helplessly. Then it dawned on Alice, “Oh! Mum met Johnny Cash! In the ’70s.” Jean went on to describe how she came to meet Johnny Cash and how she randomly invited him to perform at an art festival and he graciously did! I shared that Walk the Line was Sid’s and my “song” and showed her pictures from our recent trip to the Johnny Cash museum in Nashville.

Our conversation moved to TV shows. Jean said she hates the TV at the retirement home because they have only old shows and reruns playing all the time. You’ll never guess what her favourite show is! Bones…yes, the one with Emily Deschanel and David Boreanz. We giggled over how cute Boreanz is while her daughter rolled her eyes at us. Jean was a nurse and enjoys the science piece in the series. She admits that she likes Emily’s character more now than earlier in the series, as she seems more affable. I feel the same way. Jean also loves Castle! We high-fived as Alice looked on perplexed.

I saw that she had a little poclet book in her hand. She showed it to me. It was full of beautiful nature pictures and inspirational quotes. She shared one by Kahlil Gibran and we both said in unison, “The Prophet.” We discussed how much we loved that book! She said she didn’t remember much, except that she loved it. I told her that my favourite part was what he said about marriage. She said her favourite quote from the current book was by Antoine Du Exupery. She made me take a picture of this quote and this sunset.


Soon, it was time for me to leave. I thanked her for meeting me. She said, “See…I said please God so he sent you for me.” I smiled and thanked her again. She asked, “When will I see you again? What happens next? Will you come to see my paintings?” She was asking me about the Volunteer Companion that I was going to look for her. Again I was surprised at how much she was clued in into the present moment. I said, “I’ll surely come by to see your paintings. And I’ll try to find you a volunteer just like me.” She said, “There is no one like you. We think you are the best. I don’t want anyone else.” I said, I would try. She said, “I know you’re busy. But I really want only you. It’s feels like I know you.” I felt exactly the same. I said, “Yes, it feels like we’re the same age.” She said, “Yes, I am your 81-year old twin. Please try.” With that, she hugged me tight and kissed both my cheeks.

How blessed am I to receive the love and blessings of so many people!