Valentine’s, Alzheimers & Enduring Love

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by Paulie Tietz
Hillsboro writer

— Gold Prize Winner ($50)!!!!! Valentine’s ContestEvery day this week a new winner will be revealed.

“Oh no!” was my silent reaction. Outwardly my response was more composed. The dreaded diagnosis – Alzheimer’s disease – my biggest fear was reality.

My worried heart screamed something was amiss. My darling husband of 45 years was changing. I couldn’t explain. Was it stress or another reason? Deny-Deny-Deny.

“Honey, why did you put the trash basket here or the dishes there?” “Where is your phone?” “Did you forget to take your pills?” My questions earned a perplexed, “I don’t know.” Ultimately I could no longer deny – something was very wrong.

“Tests will rule out causes,” the psychiatrist explained. “This could be anything from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s.” Checking for low B-12, thyroid malfunction, primary progressive aphasia, he explained that 60% of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease.

Close friends came unexpectedly for prayer and support, a godsend to us. Together we listened. Perhaps this is treatable. My hopes soared. When Chuck was asked to remember and repeat four words, he faltered. The doctor’s words stung, “I think I’ll need to change my diagnosis.” My heart sank.

A CT scan confirmed it. Our family suddenly appeared, tears sprang to my eyes. Such love overpowered me.
We left of the doctor’s office shell shocked yet with a sense of relief. Now we knew. We must plan how to deal with what we faced. Not knowing was hard. “And now what?” was the question.

Its five years since that Valentine’s Day. We maintain the best treatment available today. There’s no cure. The disease is progressive, ultimately terminal, with a long debilitating degrading process for my sweet man. We understand and accept as best we can. I am alone now in many ways – missing the husband of nearly 50 years. Most decisions are mine, those he was so skilled at making. Many days I am sad. Some I even weep.

We took our lives and each other for granted. Alzheimer’s changed that. So we look up. We hold one another closer, laugh harder, cherish friend and family love deeper and take comfort from our unfailing God more preciously. Have I been impatient? I have. Has it been fun? Not always.

At times in life we ask, “Why me? Why now?” Our experience teaches us to ask, “Why not me? Why not now?” All things do work together for our good. This ‘good’ is clear – love prevails. We are living proof.