Blessings In Disguise

Ken, Mabel and his daughters Julie and Debbie and daughters-in-law, Mary and Sabina at his 80th birthday 2005

This is, possibly, my last guest post. My mom should be back here writing next week – or soon thereafter.  Debbie Schultz

One of the blessings that came from my turn at caregiving was a chance to become reacquainted with my dad. Obviously he is not the strong, but gentle man, who raised me, helped me through a divorce, get back into school, and proudly watched me graduate from college at the age of 41. This man is definitely different, interesting in his babbling, making sense only in fragments. He was always a great storyteller, but even that aspect is gone from his tangled brain. I see his personality in layers. Some of the facial expressions I remember as a little girl, the mannerisms are still there. When I first arrived here from my home in Utah, he was lying in a hospital bed, mumbling in heavily sedated sleep. He seemed so very old and vulnerable to me. I softly stroked his head and muttered my good byes, thinking that might be the end. But like my mother, he has a tremendous will to live, and two weeks out of the hospital, he is gradually becoming his old pre-accident, self.

The disease is horrifying, taking a person a bit at a time, but in a somewhat detached way, it is also fascinating. What makes a personality? What bits and pieces of one’s history stick, and why do they stick? What jogs memories? Why do some things stand out, while others are forgotten? When asked, he will say he has no children. He confuses me with my mother, but I correct him and tell him that I am his daughter and I love him. I  especially use the technique when I am doing things he doesn’t want done, like showers. Looking in his eyes and telling him seems to calm him. I call it speaking spirit to spirit. And when my daughter goes to move something of mine, he says, “Don’t touch that, it’s my daughter’s.” For a brief moment I am remembered.

He knows he was in an accident. The first few days he was home from the hospital he complained about being stiff and sore. He told me that he hurt because a truck hit him. He knows, when he remembers, that my mother is in the hospital. His love for her, despite the forgetfulness is so evident. Besides often asking where his wife is, there is wistfulness in his wanderings. He sleeps on his side of the bed, waiting for her to come. He asks me if she is working and if so, when will she return home?   Although my voice may sound the same, my reactions are different than hers. He is confused by the similarities.

I am grateful for the opportunity that I have been given to get to know my father all over again. I have more feelings for him as I have served him these past few months. I miss the man that he once was, but I love this frail, funny, shuffling person he has become. Who knows why we go through the things we do in this life? As hateful as this disease is, it often brings out the best in the people that it touches. I have gained a new appreciation for my mother and all she has gone through as she cared for the other members of our family, who were also struck down by Alzheimer’s. The positive side of this negative situation is the opportunity I have been given to serve my father and make some effort to understand what has happened to change him. Without caring for him, there would not have been the reconnection I have felt.  When he is truly gone I will not only mourn the man my father was, I will also mourn who he has become. I am indebted for the chance that I got to know that other man.

Originally posted 2010-04-28 03:39:46.

JANUARY 21, 2010

“I’ll phone you tomorrow early afternoon,” said my daughter, Julie, calling me yesterday reminding me that Ken and I had a wedding anniversary today, the 21st of January.   “There’s a new tea room uptown and we can go there for lunch depending on how Dad is doing.”   “That will be great,” I answered, thanking her for the invitation and for remembering our special day, as if she could forget.

Last year Ken was less demented than he is now, but still had little memory of us as a couple.  Nevertheless, as dinner time approached, marking our anniversary, I decided to “celebrate” by taking him to Neumanli’s, Julie’s restaurant.    He agreed that going out for dinner sounded good.  In my ever-hopeful mind I envisioned the two of us at our intimate table for two tucked in a quiet corner; the romance of us — who we had been —  pulling him into some kind of lucidity, if only for a brief time.

Of course, there was no miracle.  He wolfed down his food and asked me to take him home as his wife was probably waiting.  I explained to him that I hadn’t finished my dinner.   He was without any kind of good manners, almost like a naughty child.  When I didn’t leap up from the table to accomodate his request my “date” became so obnoxious I hurriedly ate the rest of my food, and we left before his annoying manners caused the other patrons to wish they had dined elsewhere. Thanking Julie for dinner, I scurried him to the car declaring to myself there would be no more celebrations, nor any more attempts at celebrating.

Yet, here it was again.  That’s the trouble with special days, they keep showing up on the calendar with no escape.  I had vowed to ignore the whole thing, but somehow the longing for even a small observance of our togetherness remained so strong I became hopeful that perhaps a short outing with him would suffice for me.   However, this morning was no different from how Ken has been lately as his Alzheimer’s takes him further and further away from me, the person who loves him most in all the world.  Lately, he sleeps until noon or 1:00, gets up, eats and naps a bit on the couch, then wanders around the house in his sleepware refusing any and all suggestions.  I wonder if it’s all the rain we’ve been having that makes him so gloomy?  The days are so dark and dreary.  Seldom does he want to shave and shower or become part of the real world until around 6:00 p.m., at which time he is willing to do anything I ask, but only during a limited window of opportunity.  By then, there is only time to get him cleaned up.  Still, I wanted today to be different.  If only he had cooperated, we could have taken in a movie as well as lunch with our daughter.

Julie called at 1:00 and I told her it wasn’t going to happen, and I thanked her for the effort.  Wistfully, she said, “Happy Anniversary.”   I looked out of the window at the rain; such a gray day.  I so wanted to get out, feeling a little cabin fever after so much wetness.  Ken was content doing nothing, which is not good for him either.

At 6:30 p.m. the phone rang again.  “Hi,” said Julie.  “Can you open the front door.  It’s pouring out here and I want to make a quick run into the house.”  There she was,  still wearing her chef’s coat, taking a few stolen minutes from her restaurant and holding a tray carrying two speciality desserts zigzagged with chocolate sauce just as if we were at our intimate table for two.   Tucked under one arm a dozen long-stemmed yellow roses glistened with raindrops.  “Here,” she said, setting down the tray and handing me the bouquet, “I know it isn’t the same, but just pretend.”  I felt moisture puddle in my eyes as I put my favorite flowers in water while she visited with her father.  He may have recognized her, at least he was friendly and allowed a hug and a kiss goodbye as she dashed away.

I had already planned dinner, and now I could really pretend:  Little Caesar’s Hot-N-Ready pizza with two green salads arranged on a dinner plate looked a bit more exciting when placed next to a candle and a vase of roses, especially on the kitchen snack bar.    To add to the festivities, I filled two flute glasses from a chilled bottle of  Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider.  Ken lifted his glass as I lifted mine.  “To us,” I said.  “God bless you,” he returned.

He gobbled down his dinner, as usual, telling me that everything was very good.  I cleared the dishes and served (complimentary from the best restaurant in town) our beautiful dessert.   “Did you cook all of this,” he asked.  “Of course,” came my answer.  I suppose it was all right if I kept pretending for a while — and thank you Julie — for allowing me to celebrate one more time.

Originally posted 2010-01-22 09:56:59.


The age-old question prevails:  If you had to leave your home forever with only minutes to spare what would you take?  Important documents usually heads the list, then family photos and videos where a visual history of family exists.  And if you’re lucky, there will be a scramble for the written histories of generations past; histories that remind us who we are and where we came from.

My family has been blessed with some histories.  Unfortunately, they’re out of balance when it comes to male and female.  Women seem to be the historians rather than the men.  In two of my previous writings I brought to mind a tidbit about my mother in The Dinner Roll Recipe, and The Great Adventure a very condensed history of my father-in-law’s life.  While it’s easy to say Nick’s children should have written his story, it’s better to say Nick should have written his own story; at least he should have put down as much on paper as he could, and early on, which would have allowed  someone to help him fill in the blanks.  That’s what my grandmother did with her own mother’s story, which Grandma titled, “She Came Alone.”

Helena left Sweden as a young single woman of 25 during the early 1860s to come to America because of her newly found religion.  Arriving in New York, she took the train to Nebraska, joined a handcart company sponsored by her church and walked to Utah where she later married and reared a family.  While pregnant with her eighth child, Helena became widowed.  That child, Sarah, was my grandmother.

Sarah later wrote her mother’s history as well as her own.  Certainly, we became acquainted with the husbands as they were part of the story, but how much richer the men’s history would have been had they written it themselves, or at least added their input.   Sarah’s father-in-law did write a portion of his history covering bits and pieces of his boyhood in Sweden and Denmark and his church missionary service.  Sadly, we know nothing of where he met his wife, their immigration to America or their married life together.

My own mother, bless her heart, wrote her and my father’s history several years before she developed Alzheimer’s.  How grateful I am that I have her handwritten manuscript, but again I have little of my father’s early years.   “Where was I?” I now ask myself.  My sister sat him down one day with a tape recorder to capture his story.  No doubt uncomfortable with the machine running, my sister ended up with, “I was born, I grew up and got married, had three daughters, and now I’m retired,” kind of interview.  The tape ran 10 minutes, if that.   Better to hide the device and begin a casual conversation if you want the past to come forward.  Some people become very shy when confronted with a recorder.

Whatever inspired Alex Haley to write “Roots,” I can only wonder.  His search must have become almost addictive for him to overcome all of the obstacles in his way, and then to finally find what he felt was a recognized beginning for his family; how extraordinarily rewarded he must have felt.  Possibly no other book has so stirred the excitement of family history research as “Roots,” and subsequently the TV mini series which was watched by millions.

So what does this have to do with living with Alzheimer’s?  The number of victims is growing at an alarming rate and no one knows when memories will be — just gone.  So video, tape, dictate or write about your life, or other members of your family, and include in it corresponding world and local events.  Who knows, perhaps years from now one of your progeny might do some rewriting and make your story a historical best seller.

Originally posted 2009-06-19 05:22:22.



December 20, 2008 — This is who I am:  Ann Romick or Mrs. Kenneth Romick as I appear on the bill from my long-time Macy’s card.  However, my birth certificate reads differently with the name Mabel preceding Ann.  For many years now, I have used my middle name Ann as my pen name.  The trouble with being Mabel is that it is a very difficult name to live with, and I have found that Ann, being a bit on the bland side of the rather zesty innuendos my first name often generates, makes introductions more comfortable.  Besides, I have found that “Ann” is more reader and editor friendly.  Yet, I am who I am, and if I were nameless I would still be me.

That said, my writings are not about my name, but about living with Alzheimer’s disease on a 24/7 basis which will not only include happenings about me and Ken, but generations of family.  Remembering and appreciating the past and learning to live with, understand and accept the present can bring both joy and sorrow.  The writings, memories and musings involve our parents, friends, aunts and uncles, our children and our extended family which spreads in every direction, plus a glimpse of the circumstances which tie us all together.

Ken and I have battling his Alzheimer’s since January of 2004.  Actually, I have known of its high probability for much longer as both of his parents were victims as is his sister, Loretta.  I first noticed signs of Ken forgetting in the late 1990s.  There were small indications: forgetting things we had done, some of the places we had been, but the glaring forgetfulness was his inability to find the homes of our children who had lived in their same houses for years.  Somehow, he couldn’t remember how to get there without my help.  Finally, we visited a neurologist.  I shared what I knew, but added.  “Perhaps we can say he is just forgetful.”  So for a year we pretended nothing was wrong.  In 2005, the diagnosis was confirmed:  my husband had Alzheimer’s.  Even though I could see it was coming, it was an awful blow; no longer was it “maybe” Ken has AD.  It was now chiseled in stone.

My life has become a constant struggle, and this will be somewhat of a journal which I will write on a regular basis.  Writing is therapy for me which allows me to read my own thoughts giving me a broader perspective of other caregivers who are keeping watch over their loved ones no matter what the disease.  Some days, thank goodness, are rather uneventful.  Meanwhile, and on good days I will look for, appreciate and count each and every blessing.

Originally posted 2008-12-21 06:41:30.

Ken Romick, a person with Alzheimer's featured in this blog, died early this month.

Ken Romick, a person with Alzheimer’s featured in this blog, died of the disease in October 2014.

A Father’s Day Guest Post From My Daughter

June 19, 2016  In honor of Father’s Day I am sharing the talk my daughter gave at her father’s funeral, almost two years ago.

I won’t say rest in peace, not as it applies to my father.My father has been resting for the last 14 years. I don’t believe he wants to rest anymore. Before Alzheimer’s, my father was never a restful man. He was always doing something: working, helping, constructing, hiking, running, volunteering, organizing, leading, and pushing others to be better and the best they can be. Even when he stopped to watch sports on television, he played along, shadow boxing early fights and making every sports play right along with the actual athlete on the screen. An afternoon of watching TV left him exhausted.

I think right now, he is making up for the lost time he couldn’t be busy, at least as busy as he was here on earth, before he was stopped by Alzheimer’s. He is visiting and catching up with all the people who went before him. He is filling their ears with good stories of his life on earth and sharing a hearty belly laugh with his antics here. He leaves a long legacy of those whose lives he touched. From scouting,  where he pushed his boys to learn from experience and struggle, to Little League, where they learned that winning wasn’t as important as trying your hardest and taking responsibility for yourself.  In Dad’s Club he showed, by example that men were as important in the education of their children as the mom’s who were already there, helping in school. And that the parent part of PTA meant just that, parents, both mom and dad.

One of the most important things that my dad did was listen to the missionaries from the LDS Church. Finally, after 27 years of listening, my father was touched by the right message and decided the time was right to accept the Gospel and make the commitment of baptism. While on that road, he learned the plan of salvation and the importance of a temple sealing of their marriage which was done the following year after 29 years on their wedding anniversary. As a member, his commitment intensified. He took his covenants seriously and served with more fervor, continuing to exemplify the teachings of Christ by the way he treated everyone, whether in or out of the church.

When he got Alzheimer’s , his core values and beliefs didn’t change. He may have struggled for words and memories, he may have let himself be overcome by the natural man, and be frustrated by his lack of memory, lashing out to loved ones and caregivers, but beneath that horrible disease, was the kind and gentle person he  really was. In times of clarity, he remembered his manners, apologized , said please and thank you for the care he was getting, expressed concern and tried to be as helpful as he could, despite the indignities the disease forced on him.

I am  grateful for the legacy he left, to the many people whose lives he touched in one way or another. I am grateful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the knowledge that I have that this life is just a step in the eternal view of things; that my father will be there waiting for his bride and to see the rest  of his family join him. My father was a shining example  that life is good and meant to be lived. He lived it well.

Originally posted 2016-06-18 20:28:19.


This gallery contains 1 photo.


October 30, 2015 – There once was a time , believe it or not, when it was unheard of to visit

Giant ghost and holiday lights.

This giant ghost stands watch over trick or treat coming to the Romick home.

neighborhood homes and kindly threaten “trick or treat” in San Francisco or any other city in the Bay Area.


My sister threw the first Halloween Party that I ever knew about. We lived in an old Victorian house high on a windy hill in San Francisco, and that Halloween night it was raining. She decided to let her friends know which was the right house so she rummaged through the garage until she found our dad’s “trouble light” for working on cars, and because it had a hook, she hung it on the front porch for all to see but not before she replaced the ordinary bulb with a bright red one, which shown brightly all over the neighborhood. Continue reading

Originally posted 2015-10-30 20:38:52.

aplle pies with cream

Dwelling on fond memories after losingt a loved one is like apple pie. Good every once in a while.


August 14, 2015 – The other evening after dinner for one I sat poking at my dessert wondering if I should be eating it at all. It was a warmed piece of apple pie with a squirt-on cream topping. I certainly didn’t need it. Furthermore, I reminded me, it wasn’t in keeping with my year’s goal of reinventing a new me, but the pie was very good. So I indulged myself and enjoyed not only the pie, but the moment. I did savor the flavor of every bite. I just won’t do this every night.


Life is made up of moments, good and not so good, but it’s remembering the good moments that can buoy us up in times of sadness and sorrow. As we grieve the loss of a loved one, especially a spouse, your best friend, your love and the other parent of your children, it’s only natural to be melancholy during the long process of recovery following a death. Grief needs to take as long as it needs to heal. There is no time limit even though outward signs may indicate that all is well. Like an old song from our youth, “I’m laughing on the outside, crying on the inside, cause I’m still in love with you.” For me, I’ll add another line,“And I miss you so much — your face, your smile, your kiss, your touch.”

Memory takes me to places of comfort. It takes me there with thoughts of better times before Alzheimer’s: blessings to recall, especially those involving fun events with family. The little ones we brought into the world who are now grown have become my rocks of support. I remember, however, that they deserve to enjoy their own lives without constant annoyances or intrusions from me, so I am careful in expressing my needs or asking for help when I can manage it myself. After all, I have always prided myself as being a strong, independent woman.

Visiting the bygone days, and reliving some of those moments can bring joy and comfort, but you don’t want to live there.  It is what it is: the past. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go there or that the grieving is gone. I don’t believe the loss of a spouse, or other loved ones, is ever without sorrow or musing over what is gone. The better part of what is left in life can be productive and can be a renewal of happiness. Moving on with life is what’s important. There is no rushing the grieving process, but once the year of events, holidays and anniversaries has been met one of the difficult passages is accomplished, and there is a future waiting beyond the horizon.

The philosophers have defined our periods of time. We have the past which is gone, and we have the future, but it isn’t here yet, and we have the present. That’s where we need to be, living and enjoying the present – the moment. It’s what is here right now and it’s all we really have. That’s why they call it a gift. So go out there; live and enjoy the gift, the present — the moment. And every once in a while, a memory. 

Originally posted 2015-08-17 02:23:16.


movie poster Somewhere In Time

A romantic time travel movie has this caregiver reminiscing the similarities with Alzheimer’s.


 January 17, 2014 —  If you saw the movie I doubt you’ll ever forget the intensity of their love.   Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour together in a time travel romantic story that became a cult film classic.  No, neither of the characters had Alzheimer’s, but their experience is a mind-blowing concept.

There he was, handsome and suave, even without his Superman costume, but instead of being Clark Kent, Reeves’ protrayed a young man named Richard Collins who was celebrating his first writing effort at the college premier of his successful play.   Moving past his friends is an old woman who says simply, “Come back to me,” and at the same time gives him an old pocket watch which she had given him during another time and at another place. Continue reading

Originally posted 2014-01-19 04:31:24.


home library with books

Cleaning out the study of a loved one with Alzheimer's is just another difficult task for caregivers.

Today I started cleaning the office.  While it has a corner for my computer, it has always been Ken’s room – his den – inherited when the last of our boys left home.  It’s filled (as I have mentioned before) with his things: collections by the score, memorabilia from his youth, school, Navy days and of course his Marathon and fun run awards.  And books; we can’t forget the books: college books, history books, WWII books, a few novels, lots of Navy books, and binders filled to overflowing with what was important to him.  They all seem to look down upon me as I work, perhaps asking, “What now?”

Alzheimer’s is such a perplexing disease.  Our son Kenney dropped by to say hello this afternoon.  Reaching out to shake his father’s hand, Ken didn’t even look at him, but said, “No.” I tried to get his attention so he would at least glance up and smile at his son, but he didn’t.  “He looks good,” said Kenney.  And he does.  Other than that disconnected gaze often found in their eyes AD patients look very good, and normal.  So normal in fact that as I began cleaning the thought raced through my mind, “What if he wakes up tomorrow and the AD is gone.”  What if he came into the office remembering everything and asked what I had done with his engineering books, his drafting and building books, his Architectural Graphic Standards?  What would I say?  I know it’s never happened: a return from the bottomless pit of Alzheimer’s, nor do I believe it will happen, at least not in our lifetime.  Nevertheless, I sometimes find myself wondering “what if?”

Is that the reason I’ve delayed for so long to sort through a lifetime of collections and dispose of what will never be used again – even some personal items — at least not by Ken, and then asking, “What can be used by someone else?” Questions we mull over and over when downsizing. I glanced at some of the publication dates knowing full well the books were obsolete, and even if he were still Ken, most likely they would never be opened much less read.  Even he would have to admit they were outdated.  But they were his and he liked seeing them on the shelf – they were part of him – who he was and what he did.  The drafting books?  Even I know drafting is all done with computers – CADs as they are called – computer-aided drawings.  So it was almost with force that I persevered and sorted out that one section of books – with more to happen at a later date.

My friend, Bob, who had visited the earlier part of the year as he celebrated the life of his deceased wife Julie with all who knew her, called to say that he was home and his journey was complete. We talked about all of these chores that needed our attention, and Bob said that his next goal was to simplify his life.   He planned on sorting his books; technical books from his past, just like Ken, which he had always planned to review or read again, but now he needed to be honest with himself knowing that he never would.  So he planned to take them all to a place where they would be shredded and sent on to be recycled.

In our area of California we have a recycling program, and I knew that if I put the books into the recycling bin, they would be shredded and made into new paper – or whatever.  So into the bin went Ken’s tech books.  A scene from an ancient movie popped into my mind as they clattered to the bottom.  As a youth I watched the screen in a darkened theater as countless books were dumped into a burning bin because Hitler in his madness had ordered obliteration of a good part of the past in his march to world domination, and books held vast treasures of knowledge and history. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always loved books and felt a desire to protect them — treating them with great respect — wanting them to be there for future generations.  Now I was sending some of them away for destruction.  Even though I know it’s really all right and recycling is for a good purpose I felt a little guilty, consoling myself that a modern world has no use for obsolescence.

Ken loved books as well.  I suppose that’s why he had so many, but Bob is right about simplifying. I need to repeat that word over and over as I continue sorting through Ken’s and my lifetime of stuff.  The one thing I have found is that beginning is the hardest part, and once started I know with certainty that Ken isn’t going to wake up in the morning and ask what I had done with his engineering books. Alzheimer’s never pardons their prisoners.

Originally posted 2011-08-14 00:00:33.


yellow rose

Clipping the climbing yellow rose brings back memories.

I trimmed roses today.  The trellis had been filled to overflowing with yellow climbers; each blossom spilling onto the next until there was hardly space for the leaves and branches.  Each year they open in their entire splendor for Mothers’ Day.  Picking that first bouquet I buried my face in the aroma and smiled as my heart filled with joy. I wanted to tell them not to bloom all at once – to save some beauty for June and July — but they never seem to listen.  My consolation: they bloom again in September as if to bid a fond and colorful farewell to summer.

Many years ago Ken’s mother and I browsed through a nursery admiring, touching and taking in the fragrance of flowering plants. “Pick out whatever you like,” she said, “for your birthday.”  I selected the yellow climber, and it must have known right from the beginning how special it was because once it started to climb and the first blossoms began it produced a grand showing twice a year.

Even as a child I was fond of yellow roses remembering my grandmother’s farm in eastern Utah.  During a summer’s visit when I was eight Grandma taught me how to make tiny flower dolls with billowing skirts and bonnets from hollyhock blossoms, and whistles from the leaves of a cottonwood tree, but it was the yellow climbing roses covering her fence which I thought to be especially beautiful – and memorable.  So much so I had once began, one day to finish, writing a poem:

My grandmother’s house was set back from the road,

as much as my mind discloses,

And next to the lane was a long, long fence

filled with fragrant, yellow roses.

There were other pleasant memories pulled from the past as I clipped away under and over the trellis following a few days of playful breezes which had covered the patio with golden velvet petals.  My friend John had once said how much he liked to work with growing things and the earth, “It’s good for my soul,” he said.  “Well put,” I agreed.  And today, my soul felt good.

With Ken inside resting and comfortable under Crizaldo’s excellent care I felt warmed by the sun and relaxed, putting worries about Alzheimer’s momentarily out of reach.  However, thoughts of AD are never far away.  After all, the disease has been in and out of our lives for more than 35 years.  Even the yellow climber reminds me of priceless time lost, and the once-solid lives AD has stolen from our family.

My mother-in-law’s name was Rose, Rose Mary, but her husband Nick called her Rosie, and sometimes Roses.  Ken brought me home to meet the folks on our second date, later telling his mother that one day I would be his wife.  The bumpy road to romance was just that, but eventually we did marry and Rose became my mother-in-law.  In many ways she felt I was the best thing that could have happened to her son, yet in other ways I wasn’t, but we skipped over our differences and had a great, though a bit guarded, relationship.

She adored her grandchildren, felt privileged to babysit for us, and if we needed help she and Nick were there.  Eventually, we would be there for them.

So much of what we believe we know about Alzheimer’s is speculation.  It was during a melancholy time for Rose when her doctor, caught up with the hype about the new marvel drug, prescribed Valium.  “Calming with absolutely no side effects,” was the claim; so with her doctor’s permission, Rose would gulp down a pill as if it were candy whenever she felt blue.  Years later we wondered if the remedy triggered her entrance into AD, added to it, or if it had any effect at all.  Nevertheless, AD with all of its mystery and newness became a part of our lives. 

Nick was having times of odd behavior as well, but we never really knew which of the two was worse off, or whose odd behavior was actually a symptom, and the medical profession was of little help.  In retrospect it seems as if the couple was in a race with one pulling ahead and then the other coming from behind would be in the lead.  The one thing we did know with certainty was they needed help.

Both Rose and Nick had been avid gardeners; Nick was best known for his fruit and vegetables and Rose for the array of flowers she grew, specializing in gladiolas and roses.  Whenever they came for spring and summer visits her arms were filled with a bouquet of either – at times both.

I suppose their garden (or lack thereof) could have been one of the first symptoms of AD.  Somehow, digging the earth and growing things fell by the wayside as they became tired and forgetful.  Not working outside of our home allowed me more flex time than Ken or his sister Loretta.  I came often to my in-laws’ house where I cleaned, watered, mowed the front lawn, shopped, took them to doctor appointments, to the bank, and often cooked a few meals.  With not enough time, energy or hands to do all the chores, the vegetable garden turned to weeds, but the trees continued to produce even with little or no water – for a while.

“Do you know you have peaches on your tree?” I asked one day as I surveyed the yard.  I picked a few to show Mom and Dad, and then sliced some for lunch.  “Are you going to ‘can’ fruit this year?” I asked Rose knowing full well it was beyond her present capabilities.  “I’ll try,” she responded.  “Would you like me to help?” I continued, allowing her to believe in herself.  She was pleased and remembered where she had stored the lids, jars and bands.

I picked the peaches while she gathered everything we would need.  Together, we peeled, pitted and sliced the succulent fruit and chatted as we filled the gleaming jars for the cold-pack canner.  Her mind seemed to have cleared a little and we talked with the ease of good friends.  Laughing together, Rose told me stories about her “Buddy” and what a near-perfect young man he had been.  I chuckled quietly, knowing the whole story having heard it from the rascal “Buddy” himself.

Maybe, after all, I was everything she had wanted for her son.  Perhaps it was no more than a fleeting thing — as with many mothers — remembering my own feelings as I cradled all of my babies in my arms thinking how perfect and precious they were.  I suppose it was all about wanting the very best for our children, including a perfect and precious mate when they were ready for marriage.  Hopefully, Rose had allowed our differences and accepted me for who I was, not who she wanted me to be.

The following spring there was no fruit on the struggling tree and not much to be said about the gnarled rose bushes.  Furthermore, Nick and Rose’s Alzheimer’s had grown worse.  As a family, we knew there would be tough decisions to make – probably soon – possibly later — but all of that was long ago.

My task finished for the day I put away the ladder and clippers, and swept away the petals.  I would go inside and see how Ken was doing, all the while treasuring my afternoon in the sun basking in lovely recollections, yet recalling my first introduction to the Devil’s dreadful disease when it forced its way into the contented lives of Rose and Nick.  I also thought how interesting it is that time dulls the pain of difficult memories, yet remembering the happy times still brings joy to the heart and smiles to our lips in much the same way as a bouquet of fragrant, yellow roses.

Originally posted 2011-05-23 02:51:54.

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