|Joe and I November 2014|
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
ALZHEIMER'S--DO YOU TAKE THIS MAN....
“Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you part?”
It had a poetic, almost lyrical sound to it. Joe was 42, I was 32. The notion that we would someday test those vows was so far into an abstract future that I doubt we truly thought beyond the present burning love that we felt for each other. (I can almost hear Johnny Cash in the background singing “Ring of Fire”.)
But how could we think that far into the future? We still had all the present to live through. We were still making our future.
Last week we sat in the front row during the marriage ceremony of our grandson as he answered that same question, committed to the same vows, spoke the same promises to his bride. I have to admit that while I held back tears my mind wandered to my own wedding day, and for a few seconds I took a walk down memory lane.
From the first time I met Joe I was attracted to him. Always upbeat and happy, he moved with purpose, aware of everything around him, catching every detail. He was a guy who got things done, two steps at a time. When we walked together I always felt like I was trotting to match his pace, and occasionally I’d have to ask him to slow down. (Wow, slow down? It sounds odd to say that now.)
But it wasn’t just physically challenging to keep up with Joe. I sometimes felt like the runner-up on the “Jeopardy” show, with him just inching in for the win. It was like matching wits with Ken Jennings.
We’d taken care of each other. He had my back, and I had his. We’d been through a lot and survived, even an attempted mugging in Paris where Joe stepped in between me and a guy we both thought had a gun. (A valiant and courageous gesture, but not the smartest thing Joe ever did.)
But on that day, at our grandson’s wedding, I held Joe’s hand with a clear understanding that I am evolving, not just his wife and partner, I am now his caregiver, it’s the agreement I made with him 35 years ago. I had no idea that Al would show up in our lives; that he would move in and cause so much disruption. How could I? We were both young and indestructible.
Just as I see changes in Joe, I see myself changing, morphing into someone I hardly recognize. I know I won’t ever be the same person again, but who will I become? How will being a caregiver change me?
They say the most challenging experiences teach you the most. I’d like to think I’ll become wiser, kinder, less fearful and more patient. I know I’ll be more grateful for many of the things I once took for granted. I somehow thought we would always be the same in mind if not body (certainly older, but still the same). I underestimated the value of and became used to the good life, with both of us healthy and vibrant.
Now we appreciate the good days (and there are gratefully some), the times when we can still have conversation and share and enjoy things together without Al getting in the way and tromping through the roses, so to speak. I think you can’t know the value or judge the quality of life before you have the experience of living it.
Lately, I’ve been visualizing ways to foil Al’s intrusions. If only there was a way to lure him into a corral and keep him there where he can’t get to Joe.
Years ago, we lived in a beautiful place with a huge deck almost surrounded by tall pine tree. We worked hard to make it a comfortable and attractive place to relax with family and friends. But there were dozens of squirrels living in the trees and they decided it was their deck. Every time we bought something nice the squirrels destroyed it. They ate patio furniture, chewed through power lines, and even started gnawing on the deck itself. The fuzzy little guys were driving us crazy.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I bought a humane squirrel trap, baited it with peanut butter and started my own squirrel relocation project. I moved dozens of the little vandals deep into the woods, hoping that they wouldn’t find their way back. A few did, but their love for peanut butter always landed them back to the woods.
Hmmm...I wonder if Al likes peanut butter.