In honor of National Alzheimer’s Awareness and Family Caregivers Month, I wanted to take a moment to Honor Shannon, Asheton and Bradley, for doing what they do, day in and day out, to support me as we all travel along on this Alzheimer’s Journey.
I often think back to our wedding day. It’s still far back enough in my long-term memory that I can recall a lot of the details. I also have photos I can refer to when my memory gets clouded.
The one thing that stood out in my mind on that day, and still stands out today, was when I first saw you. I’ll layout the scene:
It was sunset, a cool afternoon on Pensacola Beach. Your family, some of my family and a few close friend had all gathered at the edge of the sand awaiting your arrival. The minister gave me instructions to not look back until he gave me the go ahead.
He told me when you started walking down the steps towards me. I could hear comments of, “Oh, how beautiful!” and “Oh my God, she looks so radiant.” I’m sure there were others but I don’t remember those. Then he told me to turn around.
(I know have told you this many times before but I want everyone who is reading this to know the effect you had on me.)
I’ve never before had my breath taken away nor has it happened since. It was a one-time event . . . so far. When I turned and caught sight of you, I literally couldn’t breathe. I could only stand and stare at this beautiful woman, dressed in white, walking towards me to become my wife. I had never seen anything or anyone so beautiful.
I’m not sure of the words that were said for I heard nothing but waves and birds. I’m sure the Minister was saying some nice things, but I was still not really breathing. I do remember thinking to myself, “What in the hell did I do to deserve the love of this beautiful woman?” (Just so you know, I still think that today.)
We both wrote our own vows and although I don’t remember exactly what we said, I know the words were beautiful and from the heart. (I also know those words and the original pieces of paper they were written on are in the hope chest along with our other wedding items for safe keeping.)
I do know that somewhere, mixed in with our own words, were some of the more traditional “wedding vow” words, particularly, for good times and bad, in sickness and in health. When we finally got around to saying our “I Do’s”, I wasn’t just marrying you. Your children were also accepting me into the family.
Back then, we had no idea how true those traditional wedding vows would ring true.
Over the course of our marriage, as a family, we have dealt with major and minor surgeries, cuts and bruises, illnesses and just plain everyday stuff. We got through it all with the support of each other.
The reason I bring this up is because each time something happened, we healed, we were able to return to whatever was interrupted.
Now, it’s different. You and I both know that I will never be healed and I won’t be able to return to whatever has been interrupted because there is no returning to what was. I try to not think of that and think more of the positive, to remind myself to “Live in the Moment”, to enjoy those moments and attempt to hold on to as much as I can.
You don’t seem to let too much stop you, or at least you hide it very well. Instead, you have stepped up your game. You have readjusted your life. Asheton and Bradley have readjusted their life, but none of you complain. You allow me to do what I “think” I’m able to do and you allow me to fall, both figuratively and realistically, and the three of you are always there to pick me back up and get me back on my feet.
You’re always there, but never in the spotlight. Unlike me, you’re a behind the scenes type of person, staying in the shadows. Asheton and Bradley are like you in that aspect, allowing me to do what I do but still getting 100% of all of your support. They had a very good role model.
The three of you have allowed yourselves to appear on TV, radio, newspapers, magazine articles and so forth, all on my behalf but also stepping outside of your comfort zone for me. I can never thank you enough for everything all of you do but I try to show my appreciation each and every day.
I know our future is both known and unknown. Most people say the unknown is what scares them. I think it’s because they don’t know “the known.” We do! It makes the unknown a lot easier to navigate. I’m fortunate to have 3 travel companions coming along with me on this journey and I couldn’t ask for anyone better.
I know I thank you for something several times a day and you graciously accept it telling me, “Oh it’s fine. You would do the same for me.” I see Asheton and Bradley wearing their purple Alzheimer’s shirts to school, while shopping, going to movies, etc, and you wear purple more than I do! As I said before, I couldn’t ask for anyone better.
I don’t think I deserve what the three of you do for me, especially for what I put you through on my bad days. I wish I could control that part but unfortunately, I can’t. No amount of reminders on my phone or Post-Its seem to stop the fog from rolling in.
Along with being National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, it is also Family Caregiver’s Month. I know you like the term Care Partner better than Caregiver but I didn’t create the term. If I did, you know I would have come up with the correct description. To me, we are explorers, traveling on a Journey, making new discoveries each and every day, never knowing what is waiting for us around each bend.
Thank you for taking my hand, letting me lead when I can, you taking the lead when I can’t and just being by my side every step of the way. I love you more than you can ever dream possible.