Every marriage is a merging of strengths and weaknesses. A fortunate marriage is one where one partner’s strengths compensate for the other’s weaknesses, blocking those weaknesses from having a negative effect on the family. Barbara had so many strengths which made THE difference in cementing our family bonds over the decades.
Barbara was the most amazing “people person” I have ever known. Perhaps my cousin, Alyson. But she lives in Charlotte and I’m not close to her family. Facebook tells a lot and Alyson is definitely a people person. And both of them absolutely love dogs. To them, dogs are people, too.
At church, folks stood in line just to have a few moments with Barb on Sunday morning. When she became volunteer coordinator, every volunteer need became filled. She always found the right place for a member’s skills. And she was sincerely grateful. Those well known “hard cases” became productive volunteers.
Any time I could chat with Barbara about the things going on in her life was a fun time. This fun often spilled over to our dining room during one of her marvelous dinner gatherings. Lots of ladies showed up early to help prepare and lots of them stayed late to clean up. I made many friends because of my “people person” sweetheart. It is likely I never would have met them. Our family was strengthened by good friends. I basked in her glow.
But I believe the most valuable strength Barbara exercised in our family was her common sense. I admit it, I have virtually no common sense. I tend to say, “Let’s do it.” without weighing the consequences. At every crossroads decision, I knew I could rely on her common sense to shine the light on the best path to take. My strength is in making things happen once the decision is made. Barbara’s common sense and my tenacity joined together many times to cross the next hurdle.
Today, I need Barb’s common sense more than ever. But it is gone. Alzheimer’s Disease robbed her of that and so much more. I am now faced with the need to place her in a care facility. There are so many things to consider in making this decision. Things that require common sense. Barb’s very uncommon common sense.
Our wise doctor is aware of this need and has pointed me to a consulting firm which specializes in cases like mine. You can imagine my relief. An assessment of our situation is underway and a search for viable solutions to the obvious needs. Once again, common sense is operative. I don’t welcome the challenge that faces me, but I feel confident we’ll take the best path. –LG
When rolling the groceries to the car, she suddenly jerked the cart back, pulling my hand loose. It nearly turned over. “NO! YOU CAN’T DO THAT! IT”S NOT RIGHT!” Do what? She stormed off back toward Publix. I called to her with no result. Finally I left the cart to go after her.
She stopped before going through the front doors. Whenever I asked her to come with me, she would shout “NO, IT’S NOT RIGHT!”. It was really awkward in the middle of a crowd. Suddenly, she turned and followed me to the car, retrieving the cart on the way. Once in the car, she refused to put on the seatbelt. After several requests, I carefully reached over and drew it across her, nervous that she would grab my arm or even strike me. I clicked it into place and backed out the car. The trip home was wonderfully silent. In the garage, she walked back to the trunk and helped me carry the groceries. Everything was “fine” again.
Biscuit-the-dog always knows when something has happened. He looks for attention more than usual. Barb begins to empty the plastic grocery bags onto the kitchen table. When she came to the Breyer’s Ice Cream, she began tearing at the top to get the box open. I normally use a paring knife to chop through the tough plastic seal that circles the top. Soon the box was open and the box top lay upside down on the table, the plastic seal still attached. The fat open box of Neopolitan ice cream displayed the three sections of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.
Barb stood bent over with her head in the refrigerator, looking for something mysterious. “Would you like some ice cream?”, I asked while placing two small bowls on the table. “Yeah-uss,” she drawled in that familiar sweet southern accent. I scooped the cold delight into the two small bowls. I always use the smallest ones we have because I fill up whatever bowl I use, then I enjoy the whole thing and have another bowl full. Been known to finish off an entire carton of Breyer’s ice cream.
Barb gulped down her bowl and while I was putting groceries away, she gulped mine down, too. We had eaten a fine little lunch delivered by Meals On Wheels, so I knew she wasn’t hungry. I scooped myself another bowl full and put it on top of the refrigerator, where I keep items I want to protect from her. By the time I ate it, the ice cream was soft and yummy.
Later, I made it to my appointment with the family attorney. I had arranged the meeting weeks earlier, to update our documents and seek guidance. Our lawyer is also certified in elder affairs and has several aging clients. I reviewed our situation and came away with the name of a funeral home I need to go to to make pre-arrangements and information on a placement home a few miles from our house. It’s run by a couple and has only six or seven residents. I think everyone should be required to carry long-term care insurance from an early age. –LG
Alzheimer’s Disease is still the undisputed champion of the D-League (Dementia League), The string of victories over Barbara plunge ahead like a Naval warship sinking one enemy vessel after another. Sunk: the knowledge of where things go; destroyed: the ability to speak a complete sentence; sunk: any memory longer than a few seconds; destroyed: the ability to follow a simple instruction.
Barbara remains in good physical health and is able to jump on her trike and follow my bicycle each morning for the same neighborhood tour we’ve taken for years. This has been one of my favorite times of the day. It made things seem almost “normal” for a few minutes. Now, the Alzheimer Warship has turned its deadly weapons to this poor limping vessel.
The first shots occurred when Barb began suddenly to take side streets and leave the usual path we rode. I didn’t notice until I looked back. Of course, I always rode in front. No way could she lead.
Barbara is very strong and can pedal her trike fast. Eventually I catch up to her in a distant part of the neighborhood. But recently, this damaged vessel took a direct hit from the Alzheimer’s warship which constantly stalks her, determined to finish the job and bring her down completely.
On our bike ride, I glanced back and saw her just disappearing from sight on the side street a block away. By the time I got back to that street, she had disappeared completely. I pedaled and turned my head repeatedly. There was no sight of her. Round and round the neighborhood I went, gathering up a band of morning strollers who were eager to help. Almost all had a loved one touched by Alzheimer’s Disease and understood the urgency.
Finally, I rode home, hoping she had made her way back there. But only Biscuit, the dog, was in the house, eager for a Beggin’ Strip. Tired, I took the car back to the bike area where I last saw Barbara. Folks were still looking and let me know there was no sign of her.
I parked the car and dialed 9-1-1 to ask for help from the police. When I began to describe the problem, the voice on the other end said, “Is she on a trike?” My spirits rose quickly. “We have reports of a person on a tricycle riding into oncoming traffic on Fowler Avenue.” Fowler is the nearest major street. “An officer is on his way now to have a look.” She talked with him on the radio and soon he was pulling up behind my car. He had travelled the street without success. I followed his patrol car while we went down Fowler looking for Barbara.
After turning around, the officer pulled over and I eased my car in behind his. He had just received a call that Barbara was found. She was at a home near our neighborhood. What relief flooded over me! When we entered the living room, Barb was holding hands with the precious lady of the house, with family members gathered round. No one knew of a trike. She had been standing at their door when they returned from church. Later her rescuer told me her mom had Alzheimer’s and she recognized it in Barb right away and called 9-1-1.
I drove Barbara home without the tricycle. A few hours later the police officer pulled up in front of our house. He had the trike in the trunk of his car. A neighbor had found it in the front yard and notified the police. All day neighbors had taken action to help in the search.
I had ignored the stalking Alzheimer’s warship long enough. That night I ordered a personal GPS tracker to attach to Barbara. Now I will at least know where the battle is occurring as Alzheimer’s continues undefeated in the D-League. ~~L