If I knew then what I know now, I would tell myself that the next 10 years would contain the best kind of healing, the most wonderful blessings, answers to prayer, and true JOY amidst loss, disappointment and significant challenges.
In late November of 2010, we moved from the family farm to the mountain. It was a difficult time in our lives and we were looking for a fresh start. We didn’t know it at the time, but my favorite man had been exhibiting signs of Early Onset Dementia for more than a year.
It was challenging to diagnose at first. In 2002, Rusty rolled his 4-wheeler at a Men’s Retreat and ended up in the Trauma Ward for two weeks. He shattered his ankle, broke his collarbone, broke a few ribs, and came home in a wheelchair. Later, he would roll his pickup, fall head-first off a ladder while home alone, and slip and fall against a snow plow blade. Thus, the dementia was most likely caused by too many blows to the head.
It was only natural that doctors would first treat depression. In addition to the 4-wheeler accident, my husband’s mother was hospitalized, passing away with oral cancer on our anniversary at age 59. This was particularly hard on the immediate family. Just one month before we purchased our property, my favorite man lost his father to lung cancer. It was a pretty stressful 6 months with lots of trips to the hospital. So in 2009, our family was not surprised when doctors diagnosed a classic mid-life crisis, which I referred to as a “mid-life temper tantrum”. It would be 5 years before we received the official diagnosis of Frontotemporal Dementia.
In April of 2013 my favorite man was crushed when he lost his job of 17 years as a result of an error in paperwork for a customer’s insurance claim. After losing his second job in April of 2014, we actively pursued what was going on. By July, we had the diagnosis and two and a half years later, Social Security Disability agreed to an onset date of April 2013.
Specialists gave my favorite guy 6-8 years to live from the time of onset. In fact, at one point they reduced it to 5 years because he was progressing so quickly. Our minds reeled. We researched, prepared, probed, tested, visiting numerous doctors and specialists. Then we mourned, planned for the worst and braced ourselves with every observable change. We cried and prayed…a lot.
When my husband had a stroke in 2016 as a result of uncontrolled blood pressure, we braced ourselves for the worst, but over time he once again recovered after 10 months of intensive therapy and being wheelchair bound again.
Why do I relive this today?
It’s simple. How can I adequately celebrate where we are today, if I don’t revisit the past. I want to acknowledge where we’ve been, so that I can celebrate where we are now, because I am beyond grateful for where we are today.
Today, we can’t explain it, but my husband is doing amazing! In fact, we often forget that he even has the dreaded diagnosis and that is why I share the pictures. I do it to give encouragement to those who have loved ones who may have a similar diagnosis. Look what he has done! It’s amazing what a few boards, windows, paint, and a whole lot of elbow grease has done for our little piece of heaven on the mountain.
Sometimes he forgets names, gets anxious in crowds, rocks, stutters, and stares, and then he goes to the garage and he builds. Sometimes he uses the wrong words. The other day he asked me to hand him his “rooster”- his leather jacket. Today he closed the curtains instead of closing the window so that the generator wouldn’t wake my daughter while she slept. He no longer likes the car wash. He says that he “likes the car washed, but not the car wash”. He has always enjoyed the car wash- squealing with the kids as if on an amusement park ride.
Best of all, he enjoys his redheaded bestie who lives 13 steps down the stairs, the fish in the fishtank (that he bought for himself for my birthday last year), Pepsi, coffee, trips to Home Depot, and returning to church. He loved ZOOM church, parking lot church, and is now enjoying social distancing church. It is a dementia patient’s dream come true. The best part is that he has reunited with friends at church, is attending a small bible study, and is inviting friends to visit two by two. Surprisingly, this year he took it upon himself to send Christmas cards to many of his church buddies with a personal message in each one. (Exceeding expectations of specialists- he shouldn’t be reading, writing, or talking at this stage.)
Honestly, I’ve never loved my husband more than I do today. As a result of his forced retirement, he has become a doting husband. His life’s purpose is to make our home a comfortable place that is easy to manage, so that when the time comes, I will be alright. He does what he does for the kids and I, and I know that.
So, if I knew back in 2009, what I know now, I would tell myself that life would only get sweeter, that my husband would become much more attentive and loving, and that he would leave a legacy for his family so that when the time comes that the Lord calls him home, we would have so much surrounding us to remind us of his love and devotion to us. I would tell myself to celebrate each day and not to ask questions- just keep thanking God for answered prayer and for meeting our every need. I would remind myself to thank God daily for the precious gift of TIME.
May 2021 be a continued time of sweet fellowship and may I continue to remind myself daily that God works all things for the good to those who love Him, and we do. Very much.
So, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas and our 55th birthdays, my cup runneth over. May you be encouraged on this Christmas Eve Eve of 2020. Sometimes when life looks bleak, there are blessings right around the corner. Just stay the course, take a deep breath, and keep your eyes focused upward.