Those Vows

Scrambling to get my shoes on, I snuck into a wedding, late, this afternoon and sat in the balcony.   The view from the balcony, overlooking the wedding party and the guest, conjured up lots of reflection and I found myself smiling with the sweetness of the moment.  Such a young couple, just starting out, the bride all dressed in white and the groom all dressed in his tuxedo with pink tie and boutonniere. Such naiveté as they entered into the promise of their lives together.

Unless we're fortune tellers, most of us don't know what lies ahead.  We have no idea of the promises that we are making when making those wedding vows.  We enter into this thing called marriage, as idealists.  But, what about when the outer beauty and perfection wear off?  What about when the days are numbered or one gets grievously ill.  What about when the "cuteness" wears off and we have to wipe bottoms or spoon feed the other person?  The wedding vow is so starry eyed and romantic at the time it's being spoken...but what about later on down the road?

Very vintage!  Hippy days.   

Very vintage!  Hippy days.

 

I am so thankful that Jerry and I didn't have big grandiose ideas of marriage. I suppose we really didn't think too far ahead.  We didn't have a 5 year plan.  We just made the commitment and never looked back.  This was the same example set by both of our parents, for which I am so grateful.   Maybe I had more romanticized the idea but Jerry was more of a realist.  In reality we were, and still are, life partners more than anything else.  Whatever life threw at us..we would tackle it together. That's a pretty serious commitment!!    I couldn't help but get a tear in my eye when this couple said their wedding vows.

So, here we are.  Now.  43 years later. 

Earlier, when I drove into the parking lot the shuttle bus was in front of the facility. The unit was going on a field trip and Jerry was on board.  I parked the car and walked to the front of the bus and watched him as I came around front.  Once into clear view, our eyes connected and he raised his arms into the air...as if to say, "hallelujah".  What sweetness!  His eyes are still glazed but so sweet and vulnerable. Like a new born baby.  (I just had one of those...will write about that later.)

Jerry was eager to get up from his seat and we moved the resident who was next to him so he could get out.  I took his hands and as he rose, ours eyes locked.  Honestly, I don't know if he really knows who I am...but he knows I am SOMEONE. Someone who is important to him.  Sniff!  

There is no understanding this or explaining this to a newly wed.  No possible way of understanding.    I could never have understood this kind of love connection either, if we had not stuck it out.  

The activity director and I decided that Jerry would be just as happy going with me for the day.  So we shuffled over to the car.  Jerry's long arms and legs can be quite stiff and resistant so it is a bit of a challenge to get him into the front seat of a car. It's like folding up a piece of Styrofoam...bend it until it breaks...accept I don't want him to break.    And the whole while that I'm trying to manipulate his body, he's looking perplexed.

Once he was in the car, I noticed that he was wearing someone else's old sweatshirt and that his pants had a hole in the crotch.  Honestly, I've been a bit neglectful in getting him new clothes.  So it was time.  TJMaxx was around the corner, so I said, "Self.  What the heck.  Take Jerry in and get him some new jeans.."  So what if people stare.

Now this is the first time I've taken Jerry into a store in at least a year. In fact, I rarely take him off campus.   His state has been so fragile and I haven't wanted to put him in any confusion.  But, actually, this worked today.  He's actually so unaware that he wasn't confused at all.  I held his hands onto the cart and talked to him the entire time.  I'd hold a shirt up in front of his face and talk, as if he could understand.  He couldn't.   I'd place jeans up to his waist as if he knew what I was doing.  He didn't.  I bought him new jeans.  A new shirt or two.  New jammie bottoms and long sleeved t-shirts to warm up his freezing arms. I kept my arm wrapped around his skinny waist and we shuffled around for about 15 minutes.  

 

I wouldn't trade that time for anything.   Short but beautiful.  The kind of time that a wedding vow cannot fathom.  But a good time.  A reward that can only be experienced after a long life together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-energized for Year Fourteen - An Alzheimer Journey by Susan Scoggins

As a caregiver, consistency in routine seems to keeps things working at their best.  VIsits twice a week, once during the week and one weekend day, keep the time with Jerry pretty positive.  We used to have lunch dates, but because of his declining state, I now go just after lunch, around 1:00.  If the weather is nice, I still put him in the car and we drive around town to see his favorite waterfront, the birds and the boats.  If the weather's too cold, we head to the facility dining room, which is white table cloth, and have a coke or coffee and a cookie.  (I'm always prepared with cookies or peanuts.) After months on end, my mental energy tank begins to run low, so I've found that I HAVE to get out of dodge for a couple of weeks a year to refuel. I can feel myself sinking, my paintings lose their energy and so do I.  Luckily for me, my son lives in California, so it's the perfect escape.  In our 41 years of marriage, Jerry and I rarely left each other (accept for his business travels.)  I wasn't one for girls weekends and he wasn't one for guys golf trips.  I suppose you could say that we were stuck to each other like amyloid plaque and brain cells (not funny).  The first time I ever left Jerry for over one night, was a year and a half ago.  He was at the facility and I went to a two week art school in the mountains.  We both survived.  Then, last spring, I went to Santa Barbara for a week of intense painting.  It was wonderful.

Capitola By the Sea  20x24 oil on canvas

Capitola By the Sea

20x24 oil on canvas

January and February are overcast and dreary in the Carolinas.  That type of weather in Alzheimer world is a recipe for depression.  So over the last few weeks, I went back to California.  With my paints neatly packed, a rented car, and US 1, I drove through Carmel and Big Sur, then ended up in Pasadena with my "old same", my son, Mark.  He's good for reenergizing me.  We worked on a new website, created a new art video, played great music, laughed and celebrated being together. It was a beautifully crazy fun time.  And even though I felt the need to call Jerry almost every day, just like in the old days, each day, his nurses who are well versed in knowing how to make the families feel good, would say, "He's fine.  He danced with me today."  This trip was the perfect thing to refuel my emotional and mental energy tank so that I could go back to him.

Refreshed after two weeks, I walked into the facility curious if Jerry would know who I was.   The aide had him back in his room, bathing and dressing him, shaving and putting all his "smell good" on.  When he walked out, I melted as usual.  He put his arms out, but he did not know who I was.  (He gets lots of hugs from everyone who sees him).  I wrapped my arms around him, pulled away and told him it was me.  Hugged him again and laid my head on his chest.  As we walked down the hall, I could tell he had a happy countenance. His eyes had a brightness to them.  Even though he didn't know who I was, he knew he was with someone who made him happy.  We wandered down the hall to the living room but he wasn't content staying at the facility.  WIthout words, I could see he wanted to go.  This is our routine...go, get in the car, and drive around.  He knew.  He knew who I was.

If you have any opportunity to enable a caregiver to get away and have a re-energizing retreat.  Please do so.  It will help them go the distance.  Thank you all for encouraging me.

The Good Book - An Alzheimer Journey by Sue Scoggins

Jerry’s been doing pretty well lately.  Today, he was a shaved and dressed up in a beautiful blue striped button-down shirt and khaki pants.    When I walked through the door, he was  rounding the corner of the hallway.  His eyes caught me, he came running, wrapped his arms around me, then they drifted off across the room.  Once my arms are around him, I want to hold him tight....but, he was ready to go.  He liked the Christmas music playing on the radio and even attempted to turn it up by reaching for the air vents.  I knew what he was trying to do.  After a while, it becomes easy to read the mind of an Alzheimer person. It was a gloriously beautiful day in New Bern.  Perfect for a picnic.  So we rode by the local KFC (haven’t eaten at one of those in 20 years) and got lunch to go.  The park was the usual one by the water where all the people come to feed the seagulls.  I placed a towel on the bench so it would be a little warm and soft for his boney behind, then another towel for a table cloth.  Jerry actually was able to maneuver himself  into the picnic table which is something he hasn’t been able to do in months.  The nuggets worked just fine but he loved the cold slaw and sweet tea.

Lately, Jerry has been carrying around the Bible that the hospice Chaplin gave him.  So, today I thought I’d bring his own Bible from home.  As we walked across the street toward the water, he tucked his Bible under his arm like he always use to do.  Once we sat down again, he pointed to the cover, and said, “Holy.”  He began to thumb through it.  He randomly stopped on a page where he had underlined some verses from years ago. Matthew 7: 13,14.  “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it.  For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life,and few are those who find it.”  Interesting verse.  Especially when we come to the end of life...I can see that the gate is narrow and I’m so glad we found it... the only thing left is the best thing.....LIFE everlasting.  Thank you God.

After about 20 minutes on the bench, Jerry wanted to walk.  There’s a sidewalk that surrounds the park along the water and the seagulls are fluttering everywhere.  Jerry, frail, with his Bible tucked, me on the other side trying to keep him stable slowly continued our walk.  I could see, up ahead, two rather “thuggie” looking men sitting on their motorcycles at the end of the sidewalk....looking rather....well, ”thuglike” dressed in their motorcycle get up.  We hobbled on out in front of them to cross the street when one of them said, “I like your choice of books under your arm.  The Good Book.”  Jerry held it.   I smiled.  The other one said, “Yeah.  I wish everyone would read it.”  Whew!  WIth a smile of relief.....“Your right.”, I said.

Like I said, thank you God.  Until next time, the journey continues.  Christmas is coming.

Hospice - An Alzheimer Journey by Susan Scoggins

Here’s Jerry about 9 months before he entered his facility.  Pretty handsome, huh.  He cleans up good!

Yesterday I received a phone call from our hospice social worker.  She had just been to see Jerry and wanted to assure me that he was being well taken care of.  She arrived after lunch and wondered why the lights had been turned down.  On most days, after lunch, the residents are wheeled into the activity room for rest time.  The TV and lights are turned down low and most of them nod off while sitting in the circle, one next to the other.   She told me Jerry was taking full advantage of it and was sleeping peacefully.

The first time I saw Jerry like that it really upset me.  Seeing a once vibrant man sleeping upright in a chair, surrounded by other sleeping people just looked so pitiful.  (Course, I don’t know why that would be any different from the good old days when he slept on the sofa “studying” the TV.)  I’ve gotten use to it though, and actually get a peaceful easy feeling when I see it now.  Sort of like seeing a sleeping baby.

I asked the social worker about his weight.  She hadn’t checked his weight this visit, but recalled from the nurse, that it was still going down.  I think, at last weigh-in, he was around 140lbs.  Pretty thin for a man of 6’4”.  Jeddy, his aide, had told me that he was eating well but that it was just passing right through him.  The social worker told me that this was called “failure to thrive”.  It’s when, no matter how much the patient eats, the body does not process any nutriments anymore.   They just continue to lose weight.

There is a misconception that hospice services are only for that last six month of life.  Actually, there have been patients under hospice care for years.  What keeps Jerry qualifying for services is his “failure to thrive.”  His condition continues to deteriorate, which makes hospice available for the long term.  I have been so pleased with the hospice workers.  Unfortunately, I have not met them all, but I have met the social worker, nurse, nurse’s aide and chaplain.  They visit every two weeks.  It’s good to have an extra set of eyes on Jerry’s care.  Each time they visit, I get a call and an update.

Just wanted to give you hospice update.  I’m going to see Jerry tomorrow.  For sure, we’ll visit the FroYo place for a cup of frozen yogurt and not worry one bit about the calories.

’Til Death Do Us Part - an Alzheimer Journey

This whole scenario with Dotty and Bob DeMarco (www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/) has really brought things home to me...  That this journey will eventually  come to an end. As with Bob, this Alzheimer journey has lasted for so many years that it has become a way of life.  Our way of life.  I honestly think of Jerry’s and my relationship to be nothing other than a beautiful love story.  It's about our saying “I do"... " til death to us part”  in our young years, when we had no idea what it meant.  We were so young.  I was 19 and he was 24.  I was entering college, he was graduating.  We were young and stupid and thought we knew everything.  We lived high on the hog.  We travelled.  We lived pay check to pay check.  We grew to become responsible.  We gave birth to three wonderful children.   We buried our parents.

I remember when he was returning from a trip, I ran down the halls of the airport and threw my arms around him.  It was like a movie. I remember to this day an elderly woman who watched and smiled. There were times, we fought.  Plenty of them.  But no matter how hard it got, we knew we would stick it out.  We had been blessed with parents who stuck it out...so would we.  We had made a commitment to God.

Well meaning friends encourage me to move on.  They say he’s not there anymore.  They say he's not the man I once knew.  While I will admit I would love to be held and have someone care for me...it is only a slight temptation. Very slight.  I am fully committed and  am reminded of our commitment every time he comes to me.  Now He throws HIS arms around ME.  He is still there, in fact, after we finished at the park yesterday, he abruptly got up, turned around and said in a shaky voice, "I love you".  Unbelievable how, he has no words and hasn’t for years, yet those words came out.

In his lucid moments, Jerry knows he’s in decline.  He tries to say it.  I think he’s afraid.  Not for himself, but for me.  He has always been my protectorate.  He knows he is leaving.  He doesn’t want to.  I cling to our few moments of lucidity. The depth of our unspoken connection comes only after many, many years together.  It is a reward.  A blessing from God that could never have been imagined.  There are no regrets.  I don’t know what it will be like when he’s gone.  I don’t know if I’ll be prepared even though I’ve had all this time. Others have experienced loss and have survived.  I will too.  Then I’ll move on, counting my blessings.  I’ll move on knowing we have experienced each other from the beginning to the end.....and I’ll be thanking God for a truly beautiful marriage.

Veterans Benefits - an Alzheimer Journey

The financial expenses of caring for someone with Alzheimer disease can be devastating.

For those of you who are entering into this journey, I would recommend consulting with an experienced Elder Care Attorney to have an overall evaluation of your financial situation.  Your attorney can help you plan and watch out for pitfalls that you’ll want to avoid in the future.  You’ll need to check on insurance policies, living wills, health care power of attorney, property titles, etc.  You can find referrals for attorneys through your local Alzheimer Chapter  (in North Carolina, www.alznc.org/) or senior resources organization. ( in Wake County, www.resourcesforseniors.com)

Today I want to mention Veterans Benefits.  Even if your loved one did not serve for an extended period of time, he/she may still be eligible for some sort of assistance.  The application  process takes a long time, so check early and get the process started.  For us, I applied for VA benefits several years ago.  Jerry could have received medical visits, prescription medications and occasional respite visits, even glasses at a much reduced cost.   At the time, we were still very attached to our own doctors, so we did not take full advantage of the VA services.  However, once I placed Jerry in a facility, I began to panic about the cost.  I was afraid our money would run out.  Our situation is unique in that Jerry was very young, he was the primary income earner, he was not eligible for  medicare or medicaid assistance toward the facility cost, nor did our private medical insurance policy pay for anything.  EVERYTHING is private pay!

In a panic mode, I contacted the Veterans Administration in my area again.  I was told about  Aide and Attendance. All the information is online, but this kind gentleman explained, in a nutshell, what I might be eligible for.  The qualifications are pretty specific.  If you qualify, the veteran may be eligible for a monthly income to help offset the cost of caring for their loved one at home or  in a facility.  You can read about this online at www.va.gov/.  Again, the process is long and laborious, but well worth it.

Now, I know from experience that the information can be overwhelming in the beginning stages of this journey.  In fact, there were many days, I couldn’t read or absorb another thing.  I was so confused at all the disjointed information being thrown at me from doctors, social workers, insurance companies, alzheimer organizations, attorneys, etc.  It was too much!  After all, when was I going to do the laundry, sweep the floors, fix the leaky faucet and prune my shrubs!

Just take a deep breath, tackle one or two things at a time, then go out for a bike ride.  Try not to allow yourself to BREAK!  Trust me.....it WILL work itself out in time.

Weekend Visit - an Alzheimer Journey

These back to back art shows in Raleigh have been so exciting and uplifting for me.  As a caregiver, it’s imperative to survival to keep moving forward to stay positive. In the past, Jerry was the extrovert, off the cuff person.  I was the introvert, behind the scenes, analytical person.  Now, the rolls are reversed.  While it is energizing to put on these shows and meet people, I am still an introvert at heart.  Think way too much.  Verbalize my thoughts way too much.  THUS, THIS BLOG!

Sunday, after church, was the only day to visit with Jerry this week.  My normal schedule is every three days, but this time it had been a full week.  Deviating from the schedule  usually gets me into trouble.  I was tempted to stay  in my own positive world, away from him, avoiding reality.  But my heart told me I had to go.  The drive to New Bern is two hours.  Two hours of thinking!  Down and back.

When I arrived, Ro, my favorite CNA was on duty.  (I have lots of favorites.)  We all probably wondered if Jerry  would recognized me.  When I walked through the doors, Jerry saw me and his eyes lit up.  He reached out his arms and walked toward me and we embraced with bitter- sweetness again.  Sweetness that he knew me, bitter that it was in this way .  I was particularly emotional because it had been so long and I was reminded again of how much I missed him.  It never goes away.  I was still able to take Jerry out but soon realized that these types of ventures may be coming to an end.  We went to our pizza place but this time it was more difficult.  He was more confused and it was hard to get him to sit down.  He didn’t know what to do with that booth or chair and once seated, he kept getting up.  Thank heavens the place was empty.  The waitress was so kind.  After the confusion of getting him seated, I tried to make small talk to keep his attention.  There was no response.  But then I said, “I went to church today.”  He burst into tears.  THAT KILLED ME!  It was as if he had lost a child or something.  It told me that those things that he holds dear are still within him.

OK.  Onto positive thoughts.  Before going back, we drove over to the park and I put on an oldies station.  Jerry, immediately perked up and we threw a small football.  He loved that!  He even ran a few steps and threw a spiral!   I let Montana go and we played “keep away” from her.  It was a beautiful 15 minutes.  Whew!

The drive back forced me to think forward.  I couldn’t stay in the Jerry mode.  (otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to drive.)  I’m hoping to think of ways to have more effective visits.  Maybe visit during an activity, or forgo the eating of a meal.  Maybe just a ride to get ice cream, then to the park.  Keep the music going, so we won’t get melancholy.  Keep the visit short, between 30 minutes and an hour.  Avoid staying too long, so that we don’t get too connected.  Hmmm. There I go analyzing again!

Life at the Home - an Alzheimer Journey

The seats were beginning to fill up at gate K7 in Chicago's O'Hare airport.  I was recently waiting for a flight to Los Angeles to see my son. I watch crowded hallways with anxious travelers scurrying to make their connections and was reminded of all the trips that Jerry and I had taken together. In fact, I  remember the exact place where we were sitting, when a cart drove by carrying  the famous Mohammed Ali.  Jerry jumped up out of his seat and reached out to shake his hand.  Ali graciously accepted the handshake.

Things are different now.  But, look at all the memories!

Life at the home is simple.  Simple is good for Alzheimer patients.  Jerry's body is stiff so it is a challenge just to lift a foot to put on a pant leg or put an arm into a sleeve.  Such things as these we healthy people take for granted.

Jerry lives in a secured memory unit that is attached to an assisted living facility. There is one long hallway with bedrooms on each side.  The dining room, activity room, and nurses station are in the center.   It's a cozy place, with warm and caring staff members, and very energetic activity directors.

To a person who is well, that setting would seem like a prison.  I can understand that.  But to an Alzheimer patient, the small setting is very secure and creates a sense of comfort. The routine schedule helps eliminate confusion and chaos that so often sends them into a state of fear and resistance.

Jerry's  day usually begins with a shower and shave, then breakfast at 7:30am.  Music plays to prompt the residents that it's meal time.  Once the music begins, the residents slowly begin to move toward the dining hall where each person has their assigned seats.  Jerry usually is snapping his fingers to the music.  There is usually a staff member at each table to assist in the eating process.

After breakfast, many of the residents go to the main activity room to take an early morning nap.  Usually every morning there are activities like  dancing, exercise, games, or singing.  Some residents are not able to participate because of the progression of their disease, but those who are able, often go on scenic tours around town.

Hospice has been ordered for Jerry, so he also receives visits from a social worker, nurse, CNA, volunteer, chaplain and a doctor.

Jerry is particularly attached to Tom, the maintenance man.  He's tall, like Jerry, about the same age, and easy going.  They are  frequently referred to as the "Tom and Jerry show".   Many times you'll find Jerry walking around with Tom, "changing light bulbs".  There's a certain positive perk when an Alzheimer patient is allowed to contribute.  It makes them feel valued and respected.

Most of the time, activities are held in the morning.  Once the afternoon begins to set in Alzheimer patients often experience "sun-downers".  Sun downers, in layman's terms, happens late in the day, when they are tired.  They can get confused, tired, and agitated so probably the that's the time when a rest would be a good thing.  Dinner begins at 4:30.  Then TV, then bed.

Like I said.  Things are different now.

New Start Up - Book II - an Alzheimer Journey

My daughter and I were talking the other day  about how we felt all by ourselves when Jerry was first diagnosed.  I suppose we were since he was only 50. The picture in this post was taken about 3 years into the journey, when he was 53.  We had barely heard of Alzheimer disease, much less known anyone with it.  Now, 13 years later, it seems there is hardly anyone who has not been affected by this disease or know of someone has it.  People come to me in the early stages wracked with concern, overwhelming sadness and a sense of helplessness.

So, I’ve decided to start this blog up again.  It has taken me a little over a year to feel healthy enough to continue to writing.  Now, since I’ve been walking the road for so long, I feel it’s my duty to share what I know.  This time it will begin with what I see on an every day basis with Jerry in his memory care facility.  I’ll call it his home.  That’s just what it is....his home, where he has lived for 15 months.

Let’s start with today, April 12, 2012.  I went to see Jerry on my way up to Raleigh.  I arrived around 11:00.  Whenever I walk down the hall, on the way to the memory unit, I am greeted with energetic  smiles from the staff and residents in the assisted living section.  The feeling is of a warm, comfy home.  There is a button I press that unlocks the door to the memory unit.  A soft “ding” goes off when I open it.  Once inside, Jerry happened to be coming around the corner.  He had just been bathed and was dressed in a soft yellow henley and a pair of jeans.  The minute he saw me, he stretched out his arms and came toward me.  We must have held tight for atleast 10 minutes without moving.  Behind him was a beautiful woman who’s arms were loaded with towels and his toiletries.  I introduced myself and asked her name.  “Haddie", she said.  I thanked her for doing such a good job getting him bathed...that he felt so good and looked so good.  She smiled and said, “Thank you. I came late today.”  Jerry, then,  reached over and gave her a tap on the shoulder as if to say, “She’s good.”

Haddie  looked at him and said, “Jerry.  Who’s this?  Is this your wife?”  His eyes looked past her in the opposite direction of where I was standing.  She guided them back over to me and said again, “Jerry.  This is your wife.  This is your wife.”  He was delighted to see me.  (again) Then the three of us continued down the hall.

It turns out that Haddie is the hospice CNA that comes twice a week. She told me she usually comes around 5am, bathes him, then lays him back down and that he is always willing.  No doubt her soft and compassionate demeanor enables him to be a willing participant.  I cherish these hospice people and anyone who works with dementia patients.  I hold them in such high regard.  This is a thankless job and not very glamorous.  Yet, there is no more important work than to help those who cannot help themselves.  The fact that I know Jerry is well cared for has saved my life and provided blessed assurance.

Why I Paint - an Alzheimer Journey

At the young age of 50, my husband was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer disease.  Declared 100% disabled, it was the end of our lives as we knew it.  This beautiful man, so full of life, patriotism,  and eagerness to care for his family, suddenly became the one who was in need.  He was way too young.  Determined,  we continued life as normal as possible with only a few modifications at first.  Friends stuck by our sides.  But, over the years, our lives changed.  New friends came into our lives.  I must say that God has provided through the entire 13 year  journey.

Seeing the writing on the wall, I needed to prepare myself for caring for him.  I left my job, we downsized, simplified our lives, and spent every moment together.  Inside of me was always this urge to create.  I began to paint.  Jerry would watch me .  He was my biggest fan, bringing visitors into our garage to show them what I was doing.  I knew nothing about painting, but it was the beginning of a new me.  When I had my first solo show, I couldn’t help but weep at how proud he would have been.  There I was....a fulltime artist!

Today, my dear Jerry is in a special memory care facility.  He sometimes knows me.  Sometimes not.  But each time I walk through those doors to visit, he shuffles those long legs and runs to me with open arms.  It is a love story to be told.  I tell him about my painting and he smiles.

On April 26, at Scout and Molly’s in Cameron Village, Raleigh, North Carolina, I will be hosting a solo show to benefit the North Carolina Alzheimer’s Association, in honor of Jerry and all of those who have been affected by this disease.   My paintings will be up for sale and I will be there for a meet and greet from 5p-8pm.

Recovery and Emerging LIFE - The Follow Up - an Alzheimer Journey

Yesterday when I walked into Jerry’s new home, I stood in the foyer by the reception desk.   Immediately upon seeing me, the staff said, “He’s in there!” and pointed to the window that looked into the activity room. I peeked in and there I saw Jerry, smiling and dancing with a group of women all around him.  He was grinning from ear to ear, spinning the doe-y eyed ladies around. Have your ever ridden the Texas Cyclone?  It’s probably the oldest wooden roller coaster in the United States, has none of those fancy padded holsters to hold you in.....just a seat for two with a little bar that comes down over your legs.  Jerry and I road that coaster years ago when we lived in Texas.  He loved it.  I HATED IT!  Just when you thought you were  “safe” from the deathly downfall, you come around the curve and down you go again, leaving your sanity up top behind you.  That’s the way these two months have been.

It’s been two months and eight days.  Never, have I doubted that this was the right decision for Jerry.  However, there have been unquenchable  moments of  tears.   It was like being in a cocoon,  trying to break out, but no amount of pretending and positive attitude took away the underlying sadness.  I’ve been to see our grandkids twice and witnessed the birth of our fifth boy.  Beautiful times but without my soulmate to share them with.

Today, I think, I realized that we have broken through.  Seeing Jerry so happy and well adjusted pumped up my heart again.  The dance therapist saw me peeking through the window and waved for me to come in.  When I walked through the door, Jerry did his usual cry and wrapped his arms around me.  Then, we were urged to dance together.  "Eye contact!  Look into his eyes!"  she said.  “Touch and music are two things that remain in tact.”  So, there we were, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, dancing in the middle of the circle while the other residents looked on.  “Awe.” they sighed.

By the time I left, the group was boarding a bus to get ice cream.  The local ice cream parlor takes orders ahead of time and when the bus arrives, they bring it out to the bus and serve everyone.  Jerry and I helped wheel everyone out, no one was going to be left out.  Jerry was the last one on, but before placing his foot on the step, he looked over at me, walked over and kissed me goodbye, then turned to get on the bus.  I said, “I’ll be back soon.  I love you.”  He responded, with a secure, “Ok.”

So, this morning, Montana and I walked with a spring in our step.  In fact, I noticed I even jogged a little bit.  (A VERY LITTLE BIT.)  She actually was pulling me while she ran after the geese and I bounced along behind her in my rubbery crocks.  Recovering and  feeling new life emerging,  I think we’re going to make it.  It’s been 69 days....but who’s counting.