Forget Me Not

He was an adventurer, the cock of the wall, healthy, strong, and sometimes a little larger than life in his playful arrogance and generosity. In his prime he was a leader of men and a natural born speaker. But all that became distorted as he slid down the backside of fifty.

We met in the Yukon and dated under the midnight sun, the Mississippi man and the Canadian girl. And when the company called, requiring his expertise, we travelled together to the company mines in the Amazon Jungle where he taught me respect for the wild rain forest. I’m happy to say that street-smart, caring man became my husband and best friend what seems a lifetime ago.

Like most people we worked hard and saved for the things we wanted, muddled through tough times, and took care of home, family, and health. Life’s ups and downs didn’t seem so bad because we handled work and decisions together. But in the end that goal of freedom and security slowly withered away under the glaring reality of his uncoordinated shuffle and deteriorating memory.

Knowing now the outcome, would we have lived our lives differently? Followed the wind on our Gold Wing and been a little less responsible for others? When I see the fear or blank stare in his eyes, or hear him struggle to utter a coherent sentence, my heart shouts, yes, we would have followed that dream of adventure while we were strong and capable, instead of setting aside those aspirations for a later day.

Alzheimer’s has become a widely know disease, easily accessible on the internet. Knowing what’s happening and why has given our dark fear a name. But when one feels cheated all those detached, inflexible facts offer little in the way of making lives whole again.

I know I’m not saying anything that hasn’t already been felt or expressed by thousands of others rallying around a loved one. But actually, writing down my thoughts has helped to reconfirm what’s most important to me.

To future caregivers I humbly offer what I’ve learned:

Joy – appreciate every smile and moment of laughter for all too soon they’ll be gone forever

Love – the mind and soul are capable of so many different kinds of affection; open your heart and let something new fill the emptiness

Understanding – recognize that no one is to blame and take each day as it comes

Acceptance – admit, if only to yourself, that it’s okay to be angry, frustrated, and tired on bad days

My husband thinks I’m a genius because I know how to work the remote control. There’s a vulnerable, childlike sweetness about him now that only makes me more determined to keep him safe and happy.

To my best friend: I miss what we had but find myself loving you more.

The Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, Toronto, Canada

The Alzheimer’s Association, Chicago, USA

The ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease

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