We go back a long way, Muriel and I ...
First met Muriel when she was a young girl of 16; haven't looked back. I snagged her from the get-go. Loved her so much, I married her a year later and had chidlren with her.
We had two beautiful boys who have since grown into strapping young men; they, in turn, gave us six awesome grandchildren for us to love and spoil.
Four granddaughters, two grandsons. All healthy. Beautiful kids.
We had a wonderul life. Went on cruises to Alaska and the Carribean Islands. Raised our children in church, taught them about God and love.
We enjoyed good health and even not-so-good health. Had that cancer scare five years ago, but God brought us through. In December, I will be five years cancer free since being diagnosed. No sign of it returning, thank the Lord.
Then Muriel got sick.
At first the signs were insidious. An occasional memory lapse, but nothing too serious. They were funny. At first.
Then the symptoms rapidly got worse to where Muriel would start forgetting people's names, or where she had left her purse, her checkbook, how to get to the store and back.
A couple of times, she'd be gone for hours. Scared the crap out of me.
Muriel would start asking for her parents or her brothers. Talking to them as if they were right there. Problem is, they've been dead and gone for years. She'd talk about the Holocaust, like it was happening right now.
Her parents survived it. She never was in the Holocaust, but to hear her tell it ...
Suddenly, those funny little memory incidents weren't so laughable anymore. Muriel became more and more like a child, and I had to assume a new role: the role of caregiver. She took care of me when I had my cancer: now it was my turn to care for her.
The diagnosis: Alzheimer's disease. Muriel would get worse, to the point to where she would need total, 24-hour care. I would have to look for a skilled nursing facility when her problems became too great.
As of now, Muriel goes to an adult daycare center, where others can watch her for a few hours while I go to work or, if off, can tend to the bills and home responsibilities. In the afternoon, I bring Muriel home and we spend the evening together, holding hands, sitting in front of the fireplace, and reminiescing about old times.
We sing hymns together. Muriel has always loved Southern Gospel music. She has a beautiful voice. Not like froggy old me.
I do this to keep her memory sharp. I also quiz her about current events, and praise her when she does well, and encourage her when she doesn't. Another mental exercise to help my wife.
We both accepted Christ when we were teenagers, just before we got married and we have raised our children/grandchildren in the Christian way.
I know where Muriel will be once she passes away: in Heaven with Jesus. That gives her (and me) such hope because then Muriel will be healed. Healthy. Whole. She will have all her mental faculties back and life will be very sweet, indeed, for her, until that joy-filled day when we will be reunited in Heaven.
I try not to think about that too much, but it is there, deep in the recesses of my mind. I know Muriel's memory will continue to get worse, and there is really nothing one can do to stop the progression of her disease.
That is probably the worst thing about a loved one having a disease like Alzheimer's. It is no wonder it is often referred to as "The Long Goodbye." Alzheimer's is a cruel, unforgiving disease. And now we are dealing with it, every day.
All I can do is be there for her and try to help her through the day. If I don't do that, who else will? I certainly don't want to pass the burden on to our own children: they are already busy with their own lives. That would be cruel!
I tell her how much I love and care for her (and I DO!). I will help my wife in any way possible, to make what's left of her life as enjoyable as ever. With God's help, Muriel and I will get through this. We have to!!