By Jan Stribling, exclusive to Long2Wed
There’s a beautiful quote from Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald that so moving about first loving someone. “I don’t ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside of me there will always be the person I am tonight.” This should be in all wedding vows, shouldn’t it? I think we forget the person our partner or spouse really is, and we see them as they are caught up in the stress, the kids, their job, and all things that change us in some way.
I want to share with you a personal story about my mother and her husband. Jack is her second husband, as she and my dad divorced when I was a teenager. To be honest, I never really got along with Jack that well. He was very strong-willed, always thought he was right about everything, even if he knew nothing about whatever the topic was we were discussing. I was never quite sure why my mom married him and then stayed with him for all these years. Her complaints about things he would do or say drove me nuts, and I finally would respond only with “Then divorce him.”
Jack was not an educated man because he dropped out of school to help his family. He was the youngest of his siblings. He joined the Army and served our country. He worked hard all of his life for Spring’s Industries. When his first wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, Jack took care of her until she passed. Deep down, he was a very good man. He and I may have butted heads, but I still knew.
A few years ago, Jack began showing signs of what we all thought was Alzheimer’s. He stopped to pump gas, went inside and paid, then drove off without pumping his gas. He would call my mother and ask her where the place he was going was located, as he was turned around and confused. For a while, there were just little things like this, but eventually things worsened. He began talking about things that never happened or he seemed to be making up. He began to hallucinate and ask my mom who the kids were outside or who the other woman was in the living room. He actually thought his son had died despite my mother reassuring him he had not. He didn’t recognize his grandchildren.
My mother finally took him to another neurologist after the first one seemed to dismiss his initial symptoms and prescribe a drug that did nothing to help. This new neurologist did many tests and informed my mother that, yes, Jack did have Alzheimer’s symptomatically, but his symptoms were more related to dementia. He suggested an inpatient psychiatric evaluation.
The admission to the inpatient treatment center was horrible. I was not there, but my sister went with my mother to be there for her. Jack had no idea why he was there. He was not himself at all, and when the time came for my mother to leave him there, he became agitated and wanted to leave. How horrible that the nurse told my mother and sister to go and they’d handle everything. When my mother saw him the next day, he was heavily sedated. The psychiatrist had seen him and let me mother know that Jack had severe dementia. He could no longer be alone, he needed to be in an assisted care facility, but there would not be one that would admit him until his medications were regulated and he was no longer violent.
These words were shocking to my mom because it said that she had no idea he was so ill. None of us did. The feelings of “what if I’d just kept him at home.” and “am I doing the right thing” all went through my mother’s mind. The doctors assured her she was.
Today, Jack is in a nursing home and has good days where he seems more himself, recognizes my mom and talks with her even though he still talks about things that make no sense. For whatever reason, medication maybe, he can’t walk on his own so they keep him in a wheelchair for his own safety.
Jan Stribling is an aspiring writer with a particular interest in relationships and marriage. She has published her own magazine, He/She/Us, which focuses on these topics, and has written articles for All Women Stalk, an online women’s magazine. At 50, she has returned to college for a degree in psychology. She writes about being a mom to a 10-year-old boy on her own blog, Peonies and Popsicles.