marriage

THE PARTNERSHIP

During those first blissful years of early marriage I rarely thought of the state of matrimony as a partnership.  How unromantic was that?  A partnership sounded like some kind of business deal and I thought of “us” as being more than that.   He was the husband and I was the wife.  Husband and wife were the important words as were the titles of Mr. and Mrs. on the outside of most of our addressed mail. 

Before we married I remember how exciting  it was to sit and doodle during spare moments; practicing the best way I was going to write my new name.  Flaring the M for the Mrs. part I then curved the K for Kenneth and looped the R in as many scrolling ways as could be imagined for our shared last name.  I was going to become Mrs. Kenneth Romick as my doodle paper would testify, and it wasn’t going to be some kind of business arrangement.

The “he” part of our marriage was a G.I. student and I was the working wife, but when we were home, it was togetherness.  We moved into our first San Francisco flat where we cleaned and painted the shabby place — together.   We went everywhere together; we played together; we shopped together, we cooked and ate together — then he studied and I cleaned up — not together. 

So, perhaps everything wasn’t meant to be together — but still we weren’t ready for a business partnership. Partnership in marriage, we believed, was like what our parents had: tired and worn, yet pulling together for a common goal; not always at their best with one another, but having it not matter; spending a whole evening together exchanging only a few words and that didn’t matter either.  Yes, they were comfortable partners and Biblically speaking they were  — more or less — equally yoked:  a team.   A team, we noticed, where one member sometimes pulled harder than the other, and then at other times it was the opposite member who pulled the load.

I always believed that our “Honeymoon” lasted longer than most couples we knew.  Even with the birth of our children we had our times of romance.  So, it would be difficult to say when during these past five-plus decades of togetherness we became a partnership, but partnership we became — without sacrificing the “us.”   However, I am certain that the younger generation has long-since viewed our marriage as old and tired and as comfortable as Ken and I once viewed the marriages of our parents.  What I have found most interesting during  these years of coping with Alzheimer’s is how much I miss the partnership. 

I had planned a trip to Washington state  in 2006 to attend the 50th anniversary celebration for long-time friends Julie and Bob.  The couple planned to renew their vows with me as the matron of honor, which I had been, and the best man planned to be in attendance as well.   I explained to Julie that we were planning on coming, but I had to make the decision on a daily basis depending on Ken’s condition.  Yet, I couldn’t wait until the last-minute to make reservations and route our trip. 

One evening I pulled up the Internet punched in motels for our stops and read what was offered.  Several looked good.  I asked Ken to sit with me and help decide where we would stay.  Together we had planned all of our previous vacations.  But with AD he had no idea what I was talking about especially viewing the screen and listening to the information I read to him; it all meant nothing.  I wanted his input — a discussion, to bounce ideas back and forth between one another, to hear what he liked or didn’t like — to help me choose.   He was incapable of helping and in the end, it didn’t matter.  The chosen motel was fine and the trip went well, but I missed my partner — my husband — my team member.

The motel decision wasn’t all that important, but it was an example of what was to come.  The responsibility of “us” is all mine; we are no longer equally yoked, much less a team, and our partnership is in name only.  Our roles have changed.  I am now the caregiver and he is the patient, and I care for him in much the same way as I would care for a child — a very difficult child — who at times is stubborn, explosive and unappreciative.  Although, every so often he is lucid enough to call me sweetheart.  If I’m fast and ask him for a hug, he complies, wrapping his arms around me as in days of old, and for a few moments we are “us.”  We are partners.

Originally posted 2009-08-04 06:20:20.

THE BEST THING

It was Saturday night and I had hoped to have Ken settled in so I could go to bed early.  I felt unusually tired and he had been beastly all day: very agitated, very angry, very arrogant and argumentative.  He is on medication to cut down on the agitation and it usually works, but not that night.  Suggested dosage is one half pill in the morning and another toward evening.    Nothing seemed to make him happy or subdued, so instead of waiting until evening I gave him the other half in the late afternoon and another half pill (with the doctor’s permission) around 8:00 p.m.  Instead of him becoming calm he became more hyper and more angry.  Even the Tylenol PM at 10:00 o’clock was ineffective as he wandered from room to room ranting and raving and ordering me to leave.

Exasperated beyond description I went into the office and opened the computer thinking I would work for an hour or so.  When he becomes very unreasonable it’s easier to just lock myself in and him out.   I pay no attention to his demands to open the door and eventually he settles down in front of the TV.  Usually, he will sit for a while, get drowsy and I can talk him into getting ready for bed.

After an hour I peeked around the corner and found him ransacking the refrigerator.  “What are you doing?”  I asked.  “I’m hungry,” he replied.   “But we had dinner,” I insisted.  “Maybe you had dinner,” he growled, “but I didn’t.  I’m hungry.”  Perhaps some food would subdue him, I thought, so I made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  He ate half and told me that’s all he wanted.  He went back to sitting in front of the TV.  It was midnight.  “Please go to bed,” I begged.  “No,” he answered.  “I’m going to watch TV all night.” 

Exhausted and sleep deprived I went back into the office.  I couldn’t believe how wired he was — and why?  I returned to the computer.  The letters I typed danced up and down on the monitor and when I tried to proofread I fell asleep at every other line.  How I ached to go to bed and the more sleep deprived I became the more my anger grew.  I raged into the night, cursing that I had ever met him — that we had married — and in my frustration I imagined a simple, uncomplicated life without this deranged man — any man.  Why hadn’t I remained single, opting for a career in New York instead of marriage.  At that moment I saw myself sleeping in the bedroom of a lovely apartment  high above the city.  The room was silent and I was alone — how glorious — then my reverie vanished.  I crossed my arms on the desktop, dropped my head and cried.

It isn’t as though I can’t leave him alone.  At times I do, but only for a while and usually he is sleeping or happily occupied reading junk mail when I run to the bank or do other small errands.  I would be fearful to fall asleep with him in his present frenzied condition.  Even if I pulled the 220 fuse controlling the stove, I would not feel comfortable.   In addition to ransacking the pantry and the refrigerator, he leaves water running and lights on everywhere; and he could hurt himself.   On one of his stubborn nights I found him in the living room on the floor.   Apparently he had fallen getting out of a low chair.   Had I been asleep he would have been there all night. 

Finally, the house seemed quiet as I ventured out to see what he was doing.   Still watching TV, he appeared to be more relaxed.   Softly I asked, “Let’s go to bed.”  He said, “Okay.”  It was 3:00 a.m.

I slept fitfully and awoke at 10:00, staggered into the kitchen/family room and switched on the television.  Through my burning eyes the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco appeared on the screen.   I first thought it to be a travelogue, but the scene changed showing two men in a row-boat: one young and the other older.  The younger man spoke briefly; something about not being sure of marriage.  I decided it must be an old movie.  Still recovering from the previous night, I plopped myself  into a chair.  If I watched I didn’t have to do anything else — at least not for a while.  The camera focused to the older man — a Catholic priest — who answered the younger man’s question with reference to marriage, “It’s the best thing I ever did.”  Continuing, he explained that he had been married to a wonderful woman for 26 years.  When she died he entered the priesthood.

I watched this rather silly movie to its end where thousands of young women scurried to the church in response to an ad for marriage to this very wealthy, but reluctant swain.   Following a series of wild chases up and down the hills of San Francisco, he eagerly married his true love with all of the would-be brides as witnesses.   The movie will be easily forgotten, but I’ll remember the most thought-provoking line the writer wrote:  “It’s the best thing I ever did.” 

I remembered the night before; my anger and cursing my own marriage of more than a half century.  It has been a good marriage — not a perfect marriage  — not a perfect man or a perfect woman.  I don’t believe there is that kind of perfection, at least not in this world.   However, I will give my marriage a good solid B — better than average.  Looking back on our youthful beginning I wonder if I thought of “in sickness and in health” as meaning anything more than a cold or the flu.  How naive that would have been, but more likely I don’t believe either of us thought about illness.  After all, isn’t youth invincible?   Healthy young people on the brink of a new life don’t look very far down the road.   And if they did glimpse the ending would it alter their decision to go forward? 

Our life together has brought us our share of adversity and has now thrust upon us this illness of unmeasurable grief and sorrow, but it has also showered us with years of happiness, joy and the blessings of an ever-expanding family.  Our five remarkable children, now showing signs of greying hair and middle-age spread, have bestowed upon us grandchildren and they in turn have given us great-grandchildren, and our posterity will go forth.  Thinking of my imagined single life I had to ask “me” if that’s what I really would have wanted.  Had I chosen not to marry what would that other life be like for me today?  Even without looking down the untaken road I would have to conclude that life without my family, without Ken, would be unbearably lonely and colorless. 

In the bright, warm light of Sunday morning I believe I received something to ponder; perhaps even a Heavenly message through a silly old movie and from an actor portraying a Catholic priest reminding me that, indeed, marriage is the best thing I ever did.

Originally posted 2009-05-15 06:56:12.

LETTING IT GO

If we could look back on all of the people who have helped make up our life’s tapestry what would it look like?  Colorful, I’m sure — often brilliant in its scope and varied in texture.   Supposing all of those people were represented by a different color — not a racial thing — colors from the Crayola box and no one can choose the same color.  Now look to see how those colors come and go — in and out of our tapestry —  each entry bringing new vibrancy, contrast and dimension.   At times,  though, our people must pack up their color and move away, but there are times when the color is gone because of a misunderstanding, lack of compromise, anger, grievance or whatever?   The reasons friends and often family members leave our lives isn’t important.  It’s what we do about it that counts.  Do we hang on to the anger/frustration/hurt or do we let it go, and in letting it go is the loom of life left open for more weaving with those colors later on, or it is closed?

On that tapestry there is a major section where there are two dominating colors:  him and her — male and female — husband and wife.  There are times when those colors are bright and other times when they appear dull.  While it is natural to not always agree — and that’s all right — the colors can be dimmed even more over little neglects, hurts, offenses or lack of appreciation just to name a few of the myriad of complaints that are a part of two people living together.   Take note, however, this isn’t about the serious crimes in relationships and marriages which might bring about breaking up or divorce.  It’s about the little irritating (and sometimes not so little) things and about letting them go.  I suppose this is all about forgiveness.

In the beginning of our marriage I was, admittedly, a pouter.  And I was very good at it.  Whenever there was a slight (and believe me I can hardly recall what most of them were) I would pout for a while — perhaps even a day or two.   Ken agonized while I pouted and finally he would apologize.  That’s what I was after:  “I’m sorry.”  Not only did his words say what was important so did his big, sad, hazel eyes.  An apology was always followed by immediate forgiveness on my part.   We never exchanged harsh words or names, nor did we yell at one another.  I pouted and he apologized:  our m.o. for years and years.

One evening at our home after a neighbor secretly spiked our already delicious punch, Ken got a bit tipsy (along with several other unsuspecting guests).  Recognizing his carefree state of being he announced to everyone in the room that I was going to be really angry with him.  Then he added,  “Well, at least this time I’ll know what I did wrong.  I’ve been apologizing for the last 15 years and I never knew for what.”   After that declaration I took note.   When he offended me I told him immediately why I was angry.  Total communication.  I was mad and he knew why.  Furthermore, his apology didn’t come as quickly as they had in the past because he now had to recognize what he had done and make amends.  Pouting — perhaps.  Apology — probably.  Letting it go — forgiving — eventually.

Alzheimer’s has taught me differently — just let it go — now.   When you live on a roller coaster, emotions carry you to highs and lows you never thought possible.  At times I have seethed with frustration and often feel anger to a point where I have to leave the room over things my stricken husband says or does.  Then a few minutes or hours later when he has forgotten he’ll seek me out looking so bewildered and with sadness in his eyes will ask, “Did I do something to make you upset?”    I know he can’t help not remembering, he can’t help being arrogant at times, he can’t help lashing out at me in his own frustration.  Then I hear his words as he recognizes me once again and he says, “If I have upset you, I’m sorry.”  I am swept with a feeling of calm, and to my own surprise I can truthfully answer, “No.  You didn’t do anything wrong.  Everything is okay.”  I have learned to let it go even when there can be no apology.

As I review my life’s tapestry there are a few earlier threads which have clashed with my present color scheme and in retrospect I don’t miss their shades and hues.  My tapestry is beautiful without them.   The past is gone and all is forgiven.  It’s just a matter of letting go and remembering the advice of a dear friend who said, “True forgiveness is remembering without pain.”

Originally posted 2009-05-04 02:09:34.

CONTROL — WHO HAS IT?

January 15, 2009 — Anyone who cares for an Alzheimer’s patient knows with certainty that the disease is the “boss.”  We don’t control Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s strives to control us.  It’s always keep the peace, tell the patient what he or she wants to hear, second-guess everything you are thinking of saying, don’t argue, don’t do that, don’t disrupt and above all, don’t have a life.  That’s the hard part:  allowing this awful disease to control and take away not only the patient’s life, but the caregiving spouse’s life right along with the victim.  But guess what, that screeching sound you hear is me dragging my heels.

So much of the time I’ve found myself walking around on tippy toes trying not to break the eggs.  Before AD, and in a good marriage — which I was fortunate to have — we didn’t have to view the world through one another’s eyes.  I often said that to Ken when we had a disagreement and he felt his way was the only way.  “Thank you, Ken, for your opinion, but I don’t have to see the world through your eyes.”  Nor did I expect him to see the world through mine.  Actually, we were pretty much in agreement on most things, but there were times when we weren’t.  And it was all right to agree to disagree.

Once Alzheimer’s entered into our lives in full force — and it was a gradual thing — I somehow put my life on hold, not really knowing how not to.   I can’t say what year it was when the eggs became a permanent fixture underfoot, but they are there and I live my life accordingly — which I find  extremely frustrating.  If the room is too warm, we turn off the heat.  If he wants the door open, it stays open — even in the winter with rain coming down and  the north wind blowing.  He asks me a question, then gets angry with my answer or direction.  I used to say, “If you don’t want my help, don’t ask for it.”  That is long past, now he just views whatever I say as “telling him what to do.”  And the fault I dislike most of all is their need — any of the three men in my life —  to argue.

Ken always liked to banter with people (and me) and would take the opposite side of a discussion just for the fun of it.  He might have made a good debater, but was never sufficiently informed to support the side he chose.  For him it didn’t matter, he just liked to push people’s buttons in a teasing way, and we all knew it was just “in fun.”  But that “need,”  if one can call it a need,  is still there, but without the fun, and when he gets into a mood it can cause us both some miserable moments.

For example:  after dinner I went to pick up the plates and he said he would wash them.  “That’s okay,” I replied, “I’ll put them in the dishwasher.  That’s why we have a dishwasher, it cleans the dishes.” “Sometimes,” he snapped.  Then he gets a know-it-all expression on his face and I realize he means to argue this to the end.  In the past, I tried to reason with him.  It takes a while for a spouse to accept the fact that he or she is no longer dealing with the person they married.  So now I just walk away telling him, “I’m not going to argue with you.”

With that as a final declaration I leave him standing, escape into the office and lock the door.   Or sometimes, before he gets too argumentative I will wait a moment or two until he turns away then I disappear — to the same destination.   It might take a few minutes before he  thinks he has found me behind the locked door.   He knocks firmly and commands, “Unlock this door.”  I don’t answer and I don’t argue.  I can ignore him and I smile because I’m in control.  It’s usually just a little while, but for that moment I can do exactly what I please  Alzheimer’s has Ken in its grips, but for that small window of time, his disease doesn’t control me.

Originally posted 2009-01-19 08:14:36.

OTHER MEN IN MY LIFE

December 21, 2008 — When Ken and I married we were everything to one another: husband and wife, soul mates, lovers and best friends.  At first we had eyes for no others and space for only the two of us. Eventually the oneness and passion took its proper place in life and we became, once again, part of the real world. 

We were already children of our parents and a sister and brother to our siblings.  We had aunts, uncles, cousins and numerous friendships.  As we grew into the big, roomy shoes of married adults we took on new titles becoming not only what we were already, but more in being the kind of people we had chosen to be:  a man and a woman who were quite capable of family devotion, preparing for earnest parenthood, worthy neighbors, and good friends to many.  We also became as the scriptures tell us a strong, “equally yoked” team.  Well, as equally yoked as one can be married to the world’s number one procrastinator.  However, we were still everything to each other as we had been in the beginning.  Everything, that is, until more than a half century later when the demon Alzheimer’s introduced two new men into my life; both of whom I could readily do without.

This afternoon was filled with phone calls and company, which is always good for Ken – and me.  Having been a social person all of his life, Ken is happy to have someone to talk with even if his brain doesn’t recognize them.  Furthermore, he does remember how to “fake” it.  A young visitor might ask, “Hi, Grandpa. Remember me?” Ken will smile and answer, “Can’t recall the name, but I recognize the face.”  He doesn’t, but the encounter gets his brain working and makes a small – or tall — guest happy.

THREE’S COMPANY

Having visitors makes me happy as well because that stimulation seems to keep away his two other personalities.  My husband can become any one of three different people – or I suppose it’s better to say three different personalities, one of whom is the man I married with a diseased mind.  The various moods or personality changes that can appear at any time is part of Alzheimer’s.  I have named the first intruder Mr. Hyde.  While this personality can be rude, disagreeable, mean, and a bit combative, he is not violent and murderous as was the character created in the turn-of-the-century book Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.  Nevertheless, because he can be unpredictable, I tagged him Mr. Hyde as a point of identification, and the name seemed to fit this stranger with whom I am often pitted.

GETTING TO KNOW THEM

Mr. Hyde admits to being married, but not to me, and has a family which is never discussed.  He will often look at me and ask, “Where is my wife?” or “Where’s the boss?”  The boss, of course, is me although he sees only a stranger, someone very young who is still going to school and needs to call her parents when it’s time to go home.  That concern is part of Ken’s deep-rooted personality as he worries whenever he knows a woman is out alone in the dark of night.

The second personality is Buddy,who is about 12.  Buddy owns our home, which he claims as the house where he was born, having received it as a gift from his father and mother who still live here, and are presently away.  Buddy tells me he is not married, has no children and no additional family other than his sister Loretta who is also away.  As Buddy, he can become very strong and quick in movement. He can easily become combative when confronted with anything, especially his rights as a property owner.  Often he sees me as an intrusive stranger who has no right to be here and wants me gone from the house.  The boy personality is very protective of his home. It’s almost as though he has been left in charge while his parents are away, and takes his assignment very seriously. 

Mr. Hyde was the first to arrive.Both of these newcomers  can make things very unpleasant with their presence. Mr. Hyde and Buddy love to argue, even though most of the time they remain politely pleasant unless they are provoked which can be real or imagined.  However, it doesn’t take much to set them off.  I dislike the two intensely, all though I believe they cling to Ken’s basic upbringing about respecting women.  I can just hear his mother say, “Buddy, you must always remember this:  You are never, never to hit a woman – not for any reason!”    

As strong as these personalities are neither of them seems to appear when there is company in the house, and that’s a good thing.  Meanwhile, and though I detest both I am prepared for Mr. Hyde and Buddy to be the other men in my life for as long as they decide to stay.  

 

 

 

Originally posted 2008-12-22 02:56:18.

ALZHEIMER’S AND A MELTDOWN

baby possum

Even a tiny possum can cause a big meltdown.

The wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz had a meltdown.  One splash of water and she was gone like my grandmother’s spit on a hot iron. Now that’s what I call a meltdown.  No, I haven’t had anything like that and I don’t mean to poke fun at an extremely serious medical condition. Perhaps I’ve wanted to collapse a few times and let them take me away. If only there had been more time, and I needed the respite.  But the days are always lacking in enough hours to get the necessities done and over.  Having a meltdown is not nor has it ever been on my to-do list. Continue reading

Originally posted 2013-10-20 04:55:06.

EVEN 33 HOURS CAN BE A VACATION

My grand daughter Katie and her new husband Brian

My granddaughter Katie and her new husband Brian

July 20, 2012 — Alzheimer’s is a prison for the victim and often for the caregiver.  As caregivers, especially those of us who care for our loved one at home, we struggle against the confinement.  Keeping our head above water in the never-ending stream of responsibilities and duties we must fight diligently to give ourselves the needed breaks we not only deserve, but desperately need.  I periodically write about breaks” for caregivers and the different things we can do, places to go and the importance of friends not only to keep us as a viable part of society, but to keep us sane as well.  Undoubtedly, all of those suggestions seem to work for the day-to-day functions of our busy and often stressful lives. Continue reading

Originally posted 2012-07-20 21:21:59.

HALLOWEEN AND MY SUPER FUN DATE

Halloween pumpkins

Carved pumpkins a sure sign of Halloween

I have often said the bonus part of being married to Ken is that he was a fun date. Not only was he a fun date before marriage he continued to be a fun date after marriage, but then many of our friends remained okay dates after marriage until the tube took over, turning them into the well-known couch potato. The difference between Ken, who did watch his share of ball games, and our friends was that he continued to be a fun date up until AD became a third wheel in our lives.

Our early neighborhood was mostly made up of young couples with small children, and all but a few budgets were pinched tighter than a size eight foot in a six shoe. Consequently, nights out on the town, or even a movie, were few and far between. However, to keep our social appetites fed, kids in tow, we entertained one another at our various homes taking turns hosting: we bar-b-cued, planned picnics in the parks, or at the beach, and enjoyed Sunday summer band concerts by our city’s Municipal Band – all without spending any money. In addition, a couple of nights a month the neighbors got together for a game of penny-ante with no one going home richer than he came. It was for fun not fortune as all of the winnings went into a kitty until there were enough accumulated funds for everyone’s dinner, plus a tip, which happened every year or so.

And there were parties and celebrations according to the calendar, but perhaps none so outlandish and memorable than Halloween, with costumes required. The 31st, of course, was kids’ night so the adult party was usually held on Friday or Saturday night before Trick Or Treat, but not every year. For those less willing than Ken to dress up as someone-something else was much too much to ask of some husbands on even a yearly basis.

Prior to our just-across-the-street friends Fred and Phyllis adding a family room, all parties were held in the host’s garage. Once we found their new room to be a warm and cozy place without a draft their home became the gathering place during the colder fall and winter months.

So it was that Phil donned in black shorts, black shirt, a cowboy hat and toy six shooters hanging from her hips became a female Paladin (Have Gun Will Travel, a popular TV series at the time). Laughing, she opened the door to let in the party revelers. Fred put on two arm bands, a bow tie and took his place behind his bar as the in-house bartender, which was the costume for many of the men. Ken wasn’t much different that first year matching my Roaring 20s flapper dress with gangster-looking attire, including arm bands.

Other years, and good sport that he was, he agreed twice to wear the other half of Raggedy Anne: Andy with a sailor hat and sprouting red yarn hair. Our faces matched with cherry-circled cheeks, smiling mouths and exaggerated eyes. We wore it to Fred and Phil’s second party and a few years later our duo costumes appeared at other events. There were times when I couldn’t believe he was still such a fun guy and so willing to throw caution to the wind and be just plain silly.

Several years later we had occasion to attend a fund-raiser for a local community service organization. I made Ken a white sports coat out of a piece of left-over polyester knit from years gone by, painted a black mustache on his upper lip and handed him a baton. As Xavier Cugat, he matched my Carman Miranda outfit topped off with a turban headpiece filled with an assortment of fake fruit, including a cluster of purple plastic grapes. We were a hit with friends, but didn’t win the grand prize – not even runner up – which was all right. It was a good time because I had a special evening out with my fun-date husband. I sure miss him.

Even as Ken succumbed to Alzheimer’s, I continued to decorate for the holiday, and the second year of Ken’s illness he remembered about the little ones coming for Trick or Treat. Together we put out decorations making our house look spooky without being scary. Every morning, though, I would find the pumpkins, scarecrows and the friendly, smiling ghosts on the kitchen table. More of a morning person than I wanted to be, Ken busied himself getting the house in order while I slept. “Why did you bring in all of the decorations,” I asked him. “Halloween is over,” he replied. “Let’s put this stuff away.” Explaining that the holiday wouldn’t be over for two more weeks, I asked him if he wanted to help me put the things outside. “Of course I’ll help,” he said, ready and willing to have it all in place when the costumed children came for candy.

We went through the same routine every morning until November 1, when I agreed that we could put Halloween away for another year. It would have been easier for me to just give in the first time he brought the whole array into the kitchen. But I wanted our life to be as normal as possible even if it meant doing the same job over and over, and for several years it worked.

This year in front of our house there is a seven foot happy-faced ghost – possibly a distant cousin to Casper — hovering in the midst of our juniper bushes, surrounded by candy corn lights and spider webs. Ken no longer brings in the decorations during the early morning hours. Sleeping in a hospital bed with full rails his morning activity is limited, as is his walking ability.  He isn’t even aware that Halloween is fast approaching. Actually, I doubt he notices what’s outside, much less the passing of days, one being much the same as the last. Neither is he aware of the leaves turning gold and the hint of another year soon to pass. Alzheimer’s, like a thief in the night or a mysterious, ghostly intruder has stolen away my fun date, and the demon disease didn’t even ask, “Trick or Treat?”

Originally posted 2011-10-29 18:14:30.

TILL DEATH DO US PART — UNLESS YOU GET ALZHEIMER’S

wedding couple hands

Alzheimer's is just part of "in sickness & health" for this caregiver.

I recently watched a clip on the internet where Pat Robinson talked about advising a man to divorce his wife who was a victim of AD.  Mind you, this is not a criticism of the Reverend or the man’s desire to begin a new life.  We all do what we have to do.

“She’s gone,” the distraught husband had told Robinson.  “She’s gone — just gone.”  Affirming what he believed to be true, the husband was seeing another woman. Understandably, he yearns for companionship, happiness and everything that was once held so dear in making life worth living.  Advising that he remain financially responsible for his wife’s wellbeing, a divorce was recommended.  After all, the man had already left his marriage. With advice from clergy — not necessarily approval — I am certain the husband felt an enormous burden lifted from his shoulders.  Nevertheless, it isn’t my place to be anyone’s judge.

There was nothing said about his age or how long they had been married.  A good while ago we had friends who were a few years older than we – married for a long time.  Happily married with grown  children and numerous grandchildren, Jean and Boyd lived a good life.  Suddenly, Jean became very ill with cancer.  Together, they fought the brave fight, but lost.  Boyd was left alone and not even the devotion and company of his children was enough.   Loneliness is a torturous and demoralizing companion.

Eventually, he married again and for a while the newlyweds were happy.  The new wife, and I’ll call her Sadie, was a good woman who had been widowed, so it was natural for two lonely souls to reach out to one another.  However, the fates were not kind and within a few years, Boyd developed Alzheimer’s.  Coping as best she could, for as long as she could, Sadie finally returned Boyd to his children saying, “I’m gone,” and she divorced him.

I can’t say that I was surprised.  Dedication and long-term caring for a victim with AD is no easy task.  A few years of togetherness, even in a happy, but short, marriage, doesn’t form a good, solid foundation such as one fortified with 40 or 50 years of history which creates the required devotion and “long suffering” it takes to see the illness through to its ending.  I don’t blame Sadie for ducking out.

If all the stats were in, and this is only a generalization, I do believe that women are better at coping and as caregivers than their counterparts, and I’m not talking about Sadie.  Most men are not natural nurturers, whereas women appear to come equipped with budding broad, encompassing wings and caring hearts, bursting into full bloom with the birth of the first child, or some other life-changing phenomenon.  From there on in it just gets better.

And yet I’ve seen friends show by their actions that my observations may be biased, if not downright wrong.  After a year or so caring for his wife Elaine, Arch moved the two from their family home into a cozy apartment in a semi-care facility where they could be independent with help as needed.  He cared for her as she muddled along with mild AD in a most kind and loving way until he fell, broke some ribs and died of pneumonia.  It was then they separated, she going to the home of their son and his wife and finally to a full-care facility, and he to eternal rest.  Perhaps I can again return to the thought that we just do what we have to do, and it probably has nothing to do with gender, nor does it have anything to do with right or wrong choices, but it has everything to do with us as individuals and who we are.

I’m reminded of a sweet email that circulates across my screen periodically.  It tells of an old man waiting to have stitches removed from a minor cut on his hand, and continues something like this:

The nurse watched as he fidgeted and looked at his watch, and then asked if he had another appointment.  He explained that he spent each morning feeding his wife breakfast at the nursing home — something she could no longer do because of having Alzheimer’s.  “Does she know you?” the nurse asked.  “No,” he answered.  “Then it won’t matter if someone else feeds her breakfast just this one day,” she concluded.  “It will to me,” he replied.  No need to wait for the doctor. The nurse quickly removed the stitches and sent him on his way.  An added p.s. reminded us that we all need to learn how to dance in the rain.

“God won’t be angry with you,” said my son-in-law Tim.  “If you need to place Ken in a full-care facility, I’m sure He will understand.” Attempting to ease my worry following a horrendous automobile accident early in 2010 I knew he was guiding my way into options for my return home and decisions which would have to be made.  “It isn’t about God,” I replied.  “It’s about me.”

As it worked out I have wonderful caregivers to help with Ken and I’m glad he’s here at home.  I’m glad I can come and go without guilt, or do busy work and stop in my chores to pat his shoulder and say, “Hi, Hon.  How are you doing today?”  He may mumble something or he may not, but he’s here with me, and that’s what I want – what I have chosen.  I’m glad that I can check on him before I go to bed, tuck in the covers, kiss him on the forehead and tell him once again that I love him. “Through sickness and in health – till death us do part.”  Divorce?  For me – that’s not an option.

Originally posted 2011-10-08 04:07:56.

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