There was heartbreak, love, anger, hurt, and joy. He asked himself, if he knew all the hurt and sadness that would come along, would he still want to do this all over again? Would he still walk this road knowing what was waiting at the end? Knowing the heartbreak?
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Di and I met in college. I know, such a typical love story. But ours wasn’t a typical love. Or maybe it was: typical in all the ways that pure love should be. Passion and fire, long talks and complete obsession. Fights and decisions, moves and breakups. But in the end, through all the college-aged angst and desire to spread our wings, we kept coming back to each other, realizing that our love was more important than all the other things combined. The way we felt about each other superseded everything else.
I say it wasn’t typical, because after those rocky first years, the years when you think that better things might come along or traveling the world is more important than being with the person you love, the years when you think your life could be big in a way that love will hold back, we were happy. Once we decided on each other for good, we settled into a routine and a way of life that we both genuinely enjoyed. We worked hard, sometimes on opposite schedules, stealing kisses between shifts and sneaking in phone calls on breaks. We spent weekends jumping into our old car, exploring towns an hour or four away, soaking in the beauty of being tied down to so little. Countless times a day I would look at her and think, how in the world did I get so lucky?
Years went by and all the things happened. We bought our first house and had our first baby. Then we had two more, and our jobs changed and we moved from our first house in the suburbs to a sprawling farmhouse in the country, better suited to our three boys who needed open land to run in. She still threw her hair up into a messy bun each morning, and she still took my breath away when she smiled that certain smile. Like everyone else with a brood of kids and a mortgage, we had stress and exhaustion, but still, we were happy.
Time flew by, as it has a way of doing. The boys took turns going off to college, refusing to go to college, experimenting with different careers, leaving home and coming back. Di was a doctor and through the years she took breaks and then returned, anxious to get back to her sweet patients. She settled into her job as a pediatrician for good once all the boys left home. I waited for her each night, like a giddy school boy, excited to talk about our days and make plans for the future. The word Alzheimer’s never entered my mind. I didn’t give it a first or second thought. I didn’t think I needed to.
But one day, or maybe it was a succession of many days that turned into one big realization, I couldn’t deny that something was off. Di’s smile, her heart for people, her razor-sharp memory and wit, none of these things seemed quite Di-like anymore. The boys said I was being paranoid, mom was mom, and maybe she was just getting a little old.
Memory loss, anger, patches of confusion, paranoid thinking. None of these things fit the Di I knew, and yet here they were, loud and prominent and shouting for me to pay attention.
So reluctantly, I did. I called a doctor and I did some research and I wished that I was the one in the relationship that was good at science and analytical thinking, and not the one given to poetry and folding laundry and thinking with the right side of my brain. The doctor sat serious and resolute, and confirmed all of my worst fears. Alzheimer’s disease. Advancing quickly. Memory loss profound. I took bits and pieces from that appointment, trying to grab at the pieces of my life that seemed to be scattering all over.
Stay tuned for part two of this story.