We are coming up to our 4th Dementiaversary. Four years ago, mid April, the world as we knew it flipped upside down. It’s like we have been playing a 4 year card game of 52 Pick-Up, and we are still hunting for the cards. It’s like Alice in Wonderland on steroids, and we are still in the early stages. For the record, I HATE games, and I can’t stand Alice in Wonderland.
I’ve written about Dementia and how much it has stolen from my marriage and my family. I’ve talked about the changes that I see and choose not to see in my husband. I’ve shared the mid-life crisis, being mistreated for depression, the horrendous way that his employers chose to let him go, how he turned to alcohol and to his invisible friends of AA. I’ve shared his medical challenges, his loneliness, and pieces of his life trauma, which included 4 significant blows to the head, and the loss of both his parents.
However, through it all, I choose to focus on the positives. Four years ago, the love of my life received ANSWERS. They weren’t the answers that he was hoping for, but they were answers non the less. Over time, we have peeled away the layers like that of an onion, and now it all makes sense. In fact, we can easily go to back to 2009, when he began to spontaneously combust. In a strange kind of way, it is comforting to know that he had a reason for coming unraveled. As painful as that time was, it takes some of the sting off knowing that he couldn’t help it. His brain was malfunctioning and beginning the deterioration process.
In a strange kind of way, the dementia diagnosis has helped. It gave us a reason why he was acting the way he was, why he fell apart, and why our marriage almost didn’t make it. Although dementia doesn’t play by any rules, it gave us an explanation. It reassured me that it wasn’t because I was a failure as a wife. It has allowed me a chance to reconnect with my husband and show him how desperately I love him, and am committed to him until the end. For that, I am so very thankful.
I choose not to dwell on the negative impact this has made on my family, especially financially. We’ve had some wonderful friends and family who have helped to soften the blow. We have learned to TRUST God to provide right down to the last millisecond, and have proved that man CAN live on bread alone. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without our faith, family, and friends, especially during the very early years. Waiting 2 years for SSDI, hiring 4 lawyers, and trying to make payments when the budget is set up for 2 incomes, was nothing short of terrifying.
He is happy, most of the time. Our home was God’s gift to him: 7.5 acres of lawn to mow, with plenty of room to create as many gardens as he would like. We have a huge garage and a 3 story house that never lacks for projects. God knew. He knew in 2010, as we were losing his father, and as he struggled in the workplace, that he would be forced into an early retirement and would need lots and lots of projects. We have a great God who oversees it all and I am so very thankful.
Winters are long, and a stroke thrown in last April, created another hurdle. He isn’t a very healthy man. He has a beat up rotator cuff that needs to be rebuilt and has sore and tired knees and joints, while continuing to struggle with high blood pressure. A stroke slowed him down, forced him into the chair, gave him something different to focus on: 10 months to be exact. He has pushed hard, still wears a leg brace for stability, but will be able to WALK through his gardens this year. Another diversion from the dreaded D word?
We refer to his time home as a forced retirement. Some people enjoy retirement in their mid-60’s. My husband is enjoying it in his late 40’s and early 50’s. He is happy most of the time. Luckily, he likes to be by himself. When he does get out, 3 hours is about all he is comfortable with, and he is the happiest when he is with me. There was a day when I prayed that he would know what it was like to be left behind and uninvited, but never in my wildest dreams would I have wished this on him. Selfishly, I love feeling needed, wanted, and having him to myself so often. I look forward to quiet evenings that are drama free, and relaxed. I am thoroughly enjoying my one-on-one time with my favorite guy. It is a gift from God, and I am so appreciative.
Sometimes he is down. He gets lonely. He misses working: contributing financially and seeing people. He misses his customers, and the comradery of working with a team. He knows what he doesn’t know and that bums him out. Mostly though, he is content. He naps often, drinks slugs of coffee, enjoys Facetiming with children and grandchildren, and plays lots of games on his iPad. He follows Fox News, and watches reruns of the elections and the Superbowl win over and over again. It makes him happy, which makes me happy.
So overall, as we near the 4th Dementiaversary, we are doing alright. We are more financially stable having adjusted to our new income. He is walking and anxiously preparing for and planning the Spring gardens. We are planning a wedding for one of our daughters, and looking forward to celebrating our 3oth wedding anniversary in May. The children and grandchildren are healthy and happy. It’s funny how priorities change, how life resets what is truly important, and how we learn to just go with the flow.