The wife of a couple I love is living with early onset Alzheimer’s. The husband is a professional photographer who works out of their home. I saw him for the first time in a year or two. Since he moved from town I haven’t seen him much.
I asked him how he’s doing, how his wife is doing, how his only child is doing (a daughter who will leave this fall to study neuroscience abroad). He said his wife had declined quite a bit since he moved to the new place. He worries that he drove his daughter away by encouraging her to study abroad, but he also worries about having his daughter around to see her mother decline further.
He indicated that the Alzheimer’s disease is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, he can’t really share that much about his day with his wife since she can’t really retain or process the information. I can see that feels a little lonely for him.
On the other hand, he says he and his wife are closer than ever. Somehow the disease has stripped away all pretenses, all the worrying about little things. The only thing left is the love, he says. They hug more. She’s more emotional. “She acts like she’s done something wrong when she forgets things,” he said. I can see that upsets him.
“I have to remind myself that I’m dealing with a disease,” he says. “When I have to remind her twelve times about the same thing, it’s not her fault.” He wishes he were more patient. “I’m really getting to see that this disease is somehow about the caretaker more than the person with the disease.”
I tell him that his love and patience and care shine through. When he leaves, I hug him tighter than I have ever hugged him. I wish he could see himself the way I see him.
He is a hero.
May we pursue our paths, recognizing the heroes all around us,