Tuesday, November 25, 2014

His True Self

One thing that seems to help with the stress of the situation is hard physical labor. The other day, I decided, basically on the spur of the moment, to shampoo our carpeting. Just the traffic areas. Just on the main level. Believe it or not, this is a major endeavor.

I started the project with quite a bit of, shall we say, pent-up energy. But the thing is, well, it's shampooing the carpets. There's only so much oomph to go around; so, pretty soon, I was "in the groove" and actually feeling pretty good.

That's when my husband decided I should be finished with my work. I should be sitting with him, watching television. This is not an unreasonable request, under normal circumstances. But when you're "in the groove" of shampooing carpets, it's best not to sit down. You might not get back up. So, there was a certain amount of understandable pouting and sighing on his end. He thought I'd been at it for hours and hours, when it had only been...okay, it had been hours and hours. But he thought it had been more hours than it had been. Or something.

I decided to keep doing what I was doing, because it had to get done. I'm sure you've all been there. You can't hire everything out. Or even most things. Not yet, anyway.

I don't pretend to know what led to the next thing I noticed, but it was a beautiful thing. My husband had gone into the back yard, and he was raking leaves. Lots of golden, autumn, fallen leaves. In great, big piles. He saw something that needed doing, he decided to do something about it, and he proceeded to be helpful. Because, you see, my husband has the gift of helps. And, sometimes, it still comes forth in all its shining glory. All by itself. With no hints from me. Deep down, people need to be needed. They need to feel useful. Meaningful.

My heart was so blessed by his kindness and encouraged by his endeavor to be out there, doing something that needed to be done. What else could I do? I went outside, too, and helped him to get those piles of leaves into the trash cans for curbside recycling pickup. I remember when you could just burn them...but that's a whole other blog entirely.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sometimes, It's Just Hard

Hello, my friends. I know it's been a while since I've posted anything. Thank you to those of you who are curious as to why, because it encourages me to know there are people out there who are following our journey with care and prayers.

Sometimes, it's just hard. There will be a couple of months of "plateau," followed by several weeks when every positive moment is chased away by drama and trauma. I prefer not to post during the frustrating times, because nothing good can possibly come from negativity. And talking about it only makes it harder.

So, if you haven't heard from me in a while, I hope you are praying for us. Because we need those prayers. Sometimes, we need them badly.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

In Retrospect

At age 59, my husband was released from his job. At age 60, testing began. And at 61, he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. These are my thoughts and feelings about our experiences, good and not so good. I hope, on the whole, my chronicles will be an encouragement to you. Thank you for reading them. Hang on to your hope!

Now that I've made this diary "public" (well, more or less), people feel more comfortable asking me questions. That's a good thing, because one of the things I'm hoping to encourage is dialogue. "The Big A" is a scary thing, partly because it's a mystery. Partly because it's in the shadows. Partly because people think it's a mental illness, which it isn't. Because we can't see it, it's hard to know how to react to it. Because it makes us uncomfortable, we shy away from it.

One of the most commonly asked questions I've received is, "What were the warning signs? What did you first notice?"

Well, the problem is that when the warning signs are first happening, it's so easy to attribute them to something else. Alzheimer's isn't exactly the first thing you think of when a relatively young person starts exhibiting symptoms.

My husband was working long hours, and his job was a high pressure one with lots of responsibility not only for his own work, but for the work of others. Was he burning out? Was it hearing loss that was causing his inattention and lack of concentration? Was exhaustion causing the bullheadedness, impatience, and sour disposition? Was it having so much on his mind that was causing him to throw up his hands in frustration at all the paperwork and reports?

Of course, in retrospect, I know it was confusion. Irritation at the confusion. Embarrassment. And fear. When you know you aren't remembering things that should be automatic, things you've been doing excellently for years, it's frightening.

I can hear you saying, "Okay, we get all that. But what were some of the warning signs?"

When he started needing assistance completing spreadsheets, asking me for help with the same things over and over ("How do you freeze the rows at the top again?"), was that a warning sign, or was it just easier to ask me than to look it up? When he didn't have time to complete his reports, so I pitched in to help him catch up, was that a warning sign? When he worked longer and longer hours without being able to complete his tasks, was that a warning sign? Should I have known at that point, or would a person blame overwork?

When I helped him organize his office and there were a half-dozen copies of everything in piles on his desk and in desk drawers and in filing cabinets, yet he was making another copy, should I have realized he didn't remember having a bunch of them already? Because I thought he was just in a hurry to meet a deadline and didn't want to waste time searching the stacks.

When he refused my offer to consolidate the paperwork for him, was it because he thought I wouldn't realize I was throwing away something important, or was it because every piece of paper had become important to him, and hoarding behaviors had begun? And what is the difference between a hoarding behavior and, say, a prized collection?

When he angrily thought someone must have taken something he couldn't find, rather than simply assuming (like most people would) that the item had been misplaced, is that when I should have known?

And so, you see, the "first warning signs" are things you only notice in retrospect. They are different from the later warning signs...the repeating of a story right after telling it, the forgetting whether or not you've eaten a meal, the wondering where your kids live and how many grandchildren you have. I should have know, but I didn't. And, probably, neither will you.

But if things are happening that have you wondering, please get your loved one checked out. There's no cure yet, but there are medications that can slow the progress of the disease. And hang on to your hope.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

You'd Think He'd Learn

On Thursday mornings at the church, there's a social gathering for senior citizens. This is an inclusive bunch, as "senior citizen" is defined as "anyone age 50 or over." Bet you didn't know you were a "senior citizen," did you?

First there's food, then there's a brief devotional, and then there's the real reason everyone is there: Chicken Foot Dominoes! And conversation. The room in which the group meets has no carpeting or sound baffling to absorb the noise, so it can be hard to hear what the person across the table is saying, especially for those with hearing issues. And it can be hard to concentrate, especially for those with memory issues.

Chicken Foot is an important part of Harry's weekly schedule. He enjoys the game and almost always comes out victorious. At least, he thinks he does. But sometimes the noisy atmosphere makes it hard for him to keep track of whose turn it is, or whether or not he's had an opportunity to put his tile down, or whether he's been passed over. And when he's frustrated or confused, he can be abrupt and impatient. It's sometimes hard for others to understand that this isn't anger or aggression. It's fear and confusion. The best way to handle that is with patience and kindness.

A fearful and confused person is not going to react well to irritated reminders of how to play the game, rolling eyeballs, requests to calm down, or other assorted reactions that can unfortunately be expected when others don't understand how difficult it is for him and how much he needs this social interaction. His memory and executive ability might not be what they once were (absolutely brilliant), but he is still smart. He might not remember what it was that made him feel bad around a person, but he'll remember the feeling and associate it with that person.

So, if you find yourself in a situation where you have the opportunity to either put gasoline on the fire of confusion or defuse the bomb of frustration, please choose to defuse the bomb. Measure your words, be careful of your tone of voice, and try a little gentleness. It'll go a long way towards getting a calm and relaxed result.

"But I talked to him about it three times," someone said to me. "You'd think he'd learn!"

Well, actually, no. My point exactly. But thanks for understanding...and, thankfully, most of these wonderful seniors are kind, patient, and very (very) understanding. To them, I send heartfelt thanks!

"A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare." - Proverbs 15:1

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Visit with the Neurologist

At the end of July, we had our regular visit with our neurologist. She is fabulous, very interested in my husband's case, and is on staff at UC Davis Medical School. Her specialty is Alzheimer's, I may have mentioned already. I appreciate her and trust her.

This appointment was weird, though. The questions she was asking me are, I'm sure, routine, but I wasn't comfortable answering them right in front of my husband. I did the best I could, but it just wasn't possible to be really direct or entirely honest or even to think of specific examples of incidents or behavior with him sitting right there!

He was his usual joking and funny self and seemed to be trying to make the best of the situation, but he was visibly upset and defensive about the line of questioning. Who could blame him? What must it be like to be confused, to know you don't remember things, to be asked questions about things other people think you should remember, but you don't? It must be so frustrating. It must feel as though a trap is being set for you, and you must be careful to step around it.

Doctor:  "Have you done anything out of the ordinary lately?"
Me:  "We went to a couple of concerts. Do you remember those?"
Him:  "What concerts?"
Me:  "There were two. One was on your birthday, and one was with your brother. The James Taylor one and the Led Zeppelin one?"

Oh, yes! And his face lit up as he talked about how good the concerts were and how much fun we had. Either he was remembering them very well, or else he was pulling in other memories, or else he was doing a very good job of covering up. And you know what? It's hard to tell.

Doctor:  "I haven't seen you for a while. Didn't you take a cruise last year?"
Him:  "A cruise?"
Me:  "Remember our cruise last year to the Caribbean?"
Him:  "Who did we go with?"
Me:  "It was my class reunion."
Him:  "Oh, ya. I was stationed in Puerto Rico when I was in the Navy, you know."

And, he had fallen through the cracks. An appointment should have been scheduled several months before, but the information had apparently not been entered into the computer properly. The reminder postcard was not sent out; the appointment was not made. It's the first time that's happened, so I plan to start a spreadsheet for appointments. While I'm at it, I'll start a spreadsheet for medications. Might as well, right?

"Significant Decline"

My husband had an appointment with a neuropsychologist this morning to do the new round of cognitive testing requested by the neurologist at our last appointment. After a brief consultation, I left him in the doctor's care while the tests were administered, a two-hour process.

I had a relaxed cup of coffee in the cafeteria and returned to the waiting area. I read a murder mystery. I enjoyed chatting with other folks about travel, adding a couple of spots to my mental bucket list. And I waited for my husband to be returned to me.

Instead, I was surprised to see the doctor. By himself. He asked if I could step into the conference room for a moment before we rejoined my husband. Ominous? You bet.

"Well," he began, "I think it's fairly obvious that there's been a significant decline." He waited a moment for that to sink in. He continued, "I'd like to ask you about a few things..." And he asked some leading questions that I can't really remember right now, because I'm in a daze. The file is lost in my mental filing cabinet. Something about appropriate behavior and reactions and confusion and so on.

Significant decline. "Significant" and "decline" are not words you are prepared to hear together. "Mild" and "decline," okay. "Significant" and "improvement," okay. But not "significant decline." Granted, though he's been tested by UC Davis for the anonymous studies in which he's participating (read about that here), it's been five years since he's been tested officially for his doctor's file. Five years of slow, gradual decline that apparently adds up significantly.

Next Tuesday, we'll be meeting with the neuropsychologist again to get our test results. I think I already know they won't be what I'd hoped for. Sometimes, it's easy to say, "God is good all the time." But sometimes, I have to remind myself.

Monday, September 1, 2014

It Isn't All Bad

Around our house, it was never a given that a compliment of any kind would be forthcoming, and a meal was assumed to be tasty if it was eaten:

"How do I look?"
"You'll do."

"Did you enjoy your meal?"
"I ate it, didn't I?"

In retrospect, I recognize that this was teasing. It had to be, because my food is absolutely amazing, and I'm gorgeous! Well, the food is edible, anyway.

So, the awkwardness or shyness or whatever it was that was keeping my husband from saying nice things is going away. Not all personality changes brought on by this horrible disease are negative. At least, not yet.

And so, in addition to telling me he thinks I'm beautiful, he's also telling me he loves my cooking:

"Did you enjoy your meal?"
"Yes, I did. It was delicious! Really, really good. Thank you."

Wow. Even "thank you." He might not remember what he just ate, exactly, but he seems to have figured out how to answer the question.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

I Miss You

We sit on the couch together, watching a movie we've seen many times. He is holding me close, and I can hear his heartbeat. I tell him I love him. He kisses my forehead gently and gives me a little squeeze. It is a tender moment that pulls at my heartstrings. A wave of nostalgia passes over me, and tears fill my eyes. I sigh deeply to regain control of my emotions. I hope he will interpret this as a sigh of contentment, and, in a weird way, it is. I miss him so much. But he hasn't gone anywhere.

Have I Eaten Yet?

I think I have figured out why my husband is gaining weight, seemingly for no apparent reason.

Thursday morning:

This morning, he had a large helping of cold cereal and a small bowl of strawberries for breakfast. That was about two hours ago, at the usual time. Since then, because I have been in the kitchen on my computer, I have spotted him going to the cupboard to get a bowl with cereal box in hand. Twice so far.

"Honey, why are you getting a bowl?"
"I want some breakfast."
"You already had breakfast."

And the bowl goes back into the cupboard. Until the next time.

Is it that he's actually hungry? Is it that he doesn't remember having eaten already?

Thursday evening:

It was a friend's birthday, so we all met up at a sidewalk restaurant to enjoy the beautiful summer evening and grab some eats. It was a very informal affair, and people were joining the group intermittently, causing the food orders to arrive helter skelter. Some before ours, some with ours, some after ours.

We'd already eaten a light meal, so I ordered a carne asada quesadilla to share. It was smothered in sour cream and delicious guacamole. It was fabulous. There were chips and salsa on the table, too. Anyway, we emptied our plate, and rightly so!

More food arrived at the table for those who had ordered after us. My husband seemed distressed, so I asked him what was the matter. He was upset because he'd been patiently waiting for his food, and when was it going to arrive? I reminded him that he'd already eaten, pointing out the empty plate. But he wasn't having it. Thankfully, someone else had an extra burrito. That seemed to make everything okay.

Sunday noon:

A group of us went out for Chinese food. Unfortunately, most of the orders looked pretty much alike, which was kind of confusing for all of us, but especially my husband. How are you supposed to know whether or not you've already tried a dish? So, that part was understandable. But making sarcastic remarks because no one told you there was rice available when you, in fact, have already just eaten a large helping of rice? That's somewhat less understandable.

So, I think I've answered my own question. When he fills up his plate again at a potluck, it just might be because he doesn't remember having eaten the first plateful rather than because he's still hungry.

What am I supposed to do? He's a grown man. If he wants something to eat, he should be able to have something to eat. Sometimes, I feel like the food police, and I don't like that. I don't like it at all.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Was Stationed in Puerto Rico

My husband is very social, which wasn't always the case. I consider this to be a blessing at this point, since he is willing to talk to just about anybody (even strangers on the street and the small children of passers by, which may or may not be a good thing). Any conversation with someone new (or new to him) involves telling his story, which, like most of us, he's anxious to insert at the first opportunity.

Our stories are important to us and to others. Our identities and memories are wrapped up in our stories. We are the sum total of our experiences, some say. And when our memories start to fail, our stories are an anchor in a storm of confusion.

Because we've spent our entire adult lives together, I'm able to help reinforce that anchor. Long-time friends can also be helpful in this regard.

He'll turn to me and ask, "Where did I work again, Chris?" I'll remind him of the places he's worked.

"Oh, yes. And I did [such and such]." This part may or may not be entirely accurate, as memories are pulled from here and there and pieced together, or exaggerated, or made up. It's all good.

"And I was fortunate to travel all over...Where did I go again, Chris, when I used to go to Europe?" He worked in Europe for six weeks many years ago. He remembers the event, but adds more and more countries to the trip. I wonder if these are places he's always wanted to go, but never said so?

He always brags about our children, too, though he wants to be reminded of where they work, what they do there, the names of their spouses, how many grandchildren there are, and so on. He wants to make sure he gets that part right. Or maybe I'm the one who wants to make sure he gets that part right. Whichever.

If he's talking with a new acquaintance who was in military service, the conversation quite naturally flows in that direction. Shared experiences carry a level of comfort:

"I was in the Navy. I was stationed in Puerto Rico for four years." It was two years, but that's okay.

"I flew in P2 Neptunes," and accurately describes the airplane, what it was for, and more and more details about what happened on those missions...things I didn't even know, though I was there. Top secret, or made up memories? Who knows. Some of the memories aren't how they happened at all. But it doesn't matter. He's sharing his story.

And then he asks the other person, "What branch of the service were you in?"

The person's answer is responded to appropriately, including the mandatory teasing for other branches of the military; but, particularly if the person is a recent acquaintance, the response just might flow pretty directly right into, "I was in the Navy. I was stationed in Puerto Rico......" And about that time, the person realizes that my husband may not remember the conversation later.

But that's okay. At least he's having a conversation. He's getting a chance to tell his story. And that makes him happy. And when he's happy, there's sunshine in my life.


As I'm sure you have already surmised from my writing, I am a person of many words. I love a good conversation, especially a meaty one about current events or politics or new ideas in Bible interpretation.

I've heard there are three levels of conversation. At the first level, your conversation centers around other people. Gossip, for instance. At the next level, it centers around events. And at the third and deepest level, it centers around ideas.

We (my husband and I) can't carry on conversations at any of these levels any more. Here's a sample from this morning's ritual:

Him:  "So, what's happening today?"
Me:  "You have a doctor's appointment this afternoon."
Him:  "Oh, okay."
Me:  "So don't forget to take a shower when you get up."
Him:  "Why?"
Me:  "Because you have a doctor appointment today."
Him:  "Oh, okay."

I get up and go to the kitchen to start breakfast. I hear drawers opening and closing. I go to the bedroom to find him already dressed in yesterday's clothes.

Me:  "Did you take a shower, sweetheart?"
Him:  "No. Why? Should I? Do I need one?"
Me:  "Well, yes. You have a doctor appointment today."
Him:  "Oh, okay."

And yet, I do still try to engage him in conversations about ideas and events and people. Because sometimes, we almost succeed. And hope springs eternal.

Time Warp

All of us have experienced the sensation that hours have gone by, only to check our watches to see that we've only been waiting impatiently for that friend or phone call or event for half an hour. We quickly realize our mistake, perhaps chuckle at ourselves and our impatience, and move on to more productive thoughts. For instance, forgiving that friend for making us wait so long.

At first, I thought my husband was just being impatient like that. He would say something like, "Where have you been? I've been sitting here waiting for you for an hour and a half!" In actuality, it had been more like fifteen minutes. I've been realizing lately that he isn't simply exaggerating. He really does think it's been that long.

His concept of time is becoming warped. How frustrating is this? Very. When I tell him ahead of time that we have an event coming up later in the day (in response to his query, "So, what's happening today?"), he really does think I've asked him to hurry up and get ready for that event, even though it doesn't start until 5 o'clock, it will take ten minutes to get there, and it's currently 11 a.m. Then he's upset and irritated because I'm not ready to go. And then he's frustrated and irritated because he thought it was time to go, and it isn't, and now he's going to have to wait.

And you're thinking to yourself, "Well, so, big deal. He's going to have to wait." For most of us, it wouldn't be important at all. We would find something else to occupy our time for a couple of hours. But for him, in this case, ten minutes elapsed equals an hour imagined. He'll be frustrated and irritated again as the conversation happens again. And again. And again. And, naturally, this is frustrating and irritating for me, too.

"Okay," you say to yourself, "Just don't tell him what's coming up." I know this because I've thought of employing the method myself. In fact, I remember saying that very thing to my Mom in reference to my Dad.

But here's what I'm wondering:  How would you answer his question, then, when he asks you what's going to be happening, and you answer him with enthusiasm because you think it'll be an exciting change of pace, something to look forward to (which it is)? I'm all ears.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Executive Function

In some Alzheimer's patients, so the neurologist tells me, language skills are the first out the door. In my husband's case, the language skills remained stable long after the executive function started to go.

That means he might at one time have known how to accomplish a task, and he probably can still accomplish that task with help, but he can't remember the task, plan the task, get the supplies for the task, organize the task, and complete the task. In other words, he can paint the room for you, but you need to pick the colors, pick up the supplies, make sure all the necessary tools are there, and give exact instructions (to be repeated) as to what it is you want done. And you must be patient when he gets sidetracked.

For instance, today, we went to gas up the truck. As I exited the vehicle, I asked if he had checked the oil lately. He didn't remember, so up went the hood. He found the oil stick, he pulled it out, wiped it off, and...well, golly...it was down two quarts. He didn't remember what grade to get, so I suggested he check the oil sticker on the windshield from the last time the oil was changed. He got sidetracked in the small print, so I looked over his shoulder and saw that it was the second thing listed, right between the date and the mileage.

I said I would go into the station to get the oil while he filled up the tank with gas. When I came out, I saw that he was standing next to the vehicle, but he hadn't filled it up. Upset with himself, he found the appropriate key for the gas tank after a few tries, opened up the little door, took off the gas cap, placed it on the dash, and came to where I was standing in front of the vehicle. But he didn't actually put the nozzle in and started the pump.

I handed him the two quarts of oil, which he placed inside the cab of the truck. I suggested that it might be a good idea for him to go ahead and put the oil in, reminding him that he had checked the oil level and that it was very low. "Oh, yes. That's right." I helped him find the right place to put in the oil. He took the cap off, poured in the oil, checked the level again, and it was all good.

That's when I noticed that he hadn't filled up the tank. You know, it had slipped his mind because he was distracted. He said he didn't know what was wrong with him these days, a comment which, happily, he will soon forget. However, I will not. It is another reminder, another punch in my heart. It makes me weep inside.

He filled up the tank, locked the little door, put the hood down, and started to get into the truck. I mentioned that the gas cap was still on the dash, and he unlocked the gas door again, allowing me to put the gas cap back on while he shook his head at himself.

Now, you might think to yourself, "So, what's the big deal? The truck got filled up, and the oil got put it. It's all good." Yes, that's true.

But this is our new normal:  Every task requires reminding. Every procedure requires gentle prodding. Every chore requires instructions. Repeat step one. And, at the end of a long day, that's wearing. And you know what else is hard? Nobody understands how frustrating it is, for both of us. I mean, how hard can it be, right?

I know you don't understand, though you think you do. You can't understand unless it's happening to you, and it's happening every day, and it's happening every time anything needs to get done. It's emotionally devastating, and not everyone has a support system, and not everyone has hope or faith.

You might be wondering how you can be helpful. Just be there. This time, your kindness and the offer of a shoulder to cry on might be needed. But next time, it could be you who needs the shoulder and the kindness. Especially the kindness.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Normal Life

Originally published in Chrissie's Confessional on Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Life Was Normal Once

So, I was cleaning up some files at work today. At the back of a drawer, I found a folder that contained some personal stuff, some business stuff, and some combination stuff. Including an appointment calendar from 2005. I know, right? Throw that thing out, for crying out loud!

But, wait:  2005. That was the year we went to New Orleans at Mardi Gras, and then we went to Aruba for the first time, and then we went to Houston and embarked on our first Caribbean cruise. There were also personal milestones of others which are their stories to share but helped make up the rich tapestry of that year. So, why did I hang onto this relic of memories past? I think it must have been so I wouldn't forget how tenuous "normal" can be.

You see, in 2005, my life was just about perfect. In fact, I remember thinking to myself that life was beautiful, and I couldn't imagine it getting better. You know that advice older people give you about doing things while you can and not putting everything off until retirement? Well, that's what we were starting to do.

And then, maybe a year later, things just didn't seem right with my husband. We attributed it to exhaustion, overwork, and so on. I'm sure most people do that. It was hard for his work to get done on time and with excellence. He was working ridiculous hours, leaving home at 6 a.m. and sometimes not returning until after midnight. I started helping him with his spreadsheets and reports, because he was so busy and working such long hours. In retrospect, I was helping to cover for him, to help him get by. He only had a few years to go before retirement.

And then he lost his job. It became obvious to others that his memory wasn't what it used to be. That he was having trouble picking up conversations where they'd left off. That he was repeating himself and asking questions over and over. And we began the testing process. The rest, as they say, is history.

All of that to say, your life as you know it could go on and on swimmingly until you someday ride off into the sunset with your love by your side, having lived, shall we call it, a "charmed" existence. Or, the fairy tale could be over tomorrow. Pack as much gusto as you can into today. You know that advice I was talking about a couple of paragraphs ago? Just do it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Concert

Six years ago, my husband was released from his job. Five years ago, testing began. And four years ago, he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. These are my thoughts and feelings about our experiences, good and not so good. I hope, on the whole, my chronicles will be an encouragement to you. Thank you for reading them. Hang on to your hope! 

I took this photo. Please don't use it without
 my permission. Thank you.
For my husband's birthday, I surprised us both with last-minute tickets to see singer, songwriter, and musician James Taylor. We'd never seen him "live" before, and both of us have enjoyed his music since we were young. You could say it's the "soundtrack of our lives."

The weather was lovely, our seats were surprisingly good (especially considering the reasonable price), and Mr. Taylor's performance was incredible. Wow. What stage presence, voice command, and rapport with the audience. He's a consummate pro, making a large venue feel like a small club. Intimate. Comfortable. We were transported years back in time to when we were just starting out together. Music is amazing that way. It has memories attached to it. Mostly good ones, in this case.

My husband, along with the rest of the audience, was happily singing along to the songs. I was pleased and surprised that he was remembering the lyrics, but I wasn't prepared for the emotions I was feeling. A deep sense of sorrow and melancholy enveloped me. Yes, I was enjoying the concert. Very much so. Yes, I was singing along, too. Yes, I was listening for my favorite song, too. But tears were running down my cheeks. I may have been sobbing, overcome with feelings of loss and longing for that elusive something that might never actually have been there. That thing you can't quite put your finger on but wish you could embrace.

I was happy. And I was sad. Happy because my husband was having a wonderful time. Happy because I'd been able to give him something really special for "his" day. Sad because tomorrow, or even on the way home tonight, he might not really remember having been there without prompting. Sad because we were young once, and we didn't realize we wouldn't always be. We were healthy once, and we took it for granted. Just like all of you.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

You're Beautiful!

Overnight travel and a strange bed can make sleep come at a premium, especially if confusion sets in before drowziness happens. Wakefulness means conversation:

He asks, "Where are we?"
I answer, "My mom's bed. We're at her place for a few days."
"Oh," he says, touching my arm. "Your skin is so soft."
"Thank you."
"No, really. It's really, really soft."
"Thank you. I use a lot of lotion to keep it that way."
He chuckles.
I say, "What's funny?"
"I can't believe I'm here with you."
"You're so beautiful!"
"Thank you," I say, with tears in my eyes. This has never happened before in all our years of marriage.
"No, really, you're the most beautiful girl I ever dated."
This has never happened, either.
"Thank you," I whisper, "You're kinda cute, yourself."
Now it's his turn to say, "Thank you. I love you." And he chuckles again.
"I love you, too. What's funny?"
"Nothing's funny. I'm just so happy. You're so beautiful! I can't believe I'm with you. I love you. I really do!"
"Are we married?"
"Yes, we've been married 44 years."
"44 YEARS? Wow. You're so beautiful. Really. You look great. Your body looks great, so curvy and soft. I'm so happy!"

This more or less exact conversation was repeated over and over all night long, until he finally fell asleep just before dawn. And so did I, curled up in his arms, amazed at this wonderful discovery of deep love and continued attraction. Why didn't he romance me like this from the very beginning? I don't know. But he's doing so now, and that's what matters.

One of my friends told me years ago, upon learning of the diagnosis, that she felt sorry because the relationship I'd always dreamed of having with my husband would now never happen. I was taken aback at the time and tried to dismiss her comment, discounting it as baseless words that should not have been spoken. Because you know what? She was wrong.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Stalker

He hides behind doors. He creeps quietly down the hallway to the kitchen. He waits patiently on the far side of the refrigerator, not making a sound, hardly breathing, waiting for his opportunity to say, "I'm just trying to keep your skills sharp." Someday, he may be asking why I'm having a heart attack.

He parks outside my office when he thinks I should be home by now, then leaves suddenly when he notices I have seen him. I ask him him why he didn't come in, why he didn't simply call. He stares at me as though I have done something wrong.

He is practicing his own skills. The Stalker.