Three Septembers ago we found out. My husband, Bo, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was a devastating blow for both of us. Privately, each of us had had our suspicions. I’d heard him tell his brother that his memory was so bad — “different,” he said, “This isn’t just forgetting.”
That June we spent two weeks in the Dordogne region of France with our friends. One day as we were walking through a countryside chateau after a particularly worrisome moment, I confided to my friend Joan that I was worried that he might have Alzheimer’s. She put her arms around me and we stood there crying. But I hoped I was just over-reacting. Maybe it was just our age. He was 72 and I was 66. We forget things.
I had noticed that he wouldn’t do the driving, which he always did on our travels together, and each day he asked repeatedly where we were going. I would explain. Then I got a huge map of the south of France and hung it on the wall of our rental house kitchen. Each morning and evening I high-lighted the day’s journey to help him, but still he forgot. He didn’t seem to be able to put the whole trip together in his mind. “He’s just not paying attention,” I told myself. “If he were doing the driving, he’d know.”
I know now that the diagnosis was an even greater blow to him than I realized at the time even though I knew it was beyond dreadful. At the same time that he went for his annual physical and was searching for an answer, I was totally tied up with moving my 90-year-old mother from an assisted living residence 175 miles from here to a new one just 5 miles from our house. I’m an only child so the entire responsibility was on me. I had just sold the homeplace, auctioned off all of her belongings, and organized the move. It wasn’t simple and as I look back now, I realize that Bo didn’t help, which is totally unlike him. He had done so much for her already, I felt it was my time. Mother came to our house for 3 weeks; her furniture was temporarily stored in our garage, and we waited for her new apartment to be ready.
It was during those 3 weeks that Bo found out. He didn’t tell me he had any tests; he simply went for his follow-up exam and came home. I’ll never forget that moment. I walked upstairs into our bedroom and he said, “Poor Nancy. You have some really bad years ahead with your mother and me. I have Alzheimer’s.” We held one another tightly. I didn’t know what to say except, “Oh, Boris, I’m so sorry.” I couldn’t even cry. It was a surreal moment.
Next post: I knew immediately that ……