In my last blog, I mentioned finally giving away Bo’s slalom ski. Parting with anything of Bo’s is so hard. It’s as if I am erasing him piece by piece — the hobbies, the tools, the clothes he will never need. Symbols of loss.
When he was first diagnosed, Bo was an avid golfer, going to the links nearly every day. At the same time, he loved searching for lost balls, coming home with his pockets full of balls he had fished out of ponds and weeds, and storing them in buckets, drawers and boxes. He was also an avid model airplane builder and flyer, going to the airfield several times a week. Our basement was full of tools, planes, engines and parts. He wasn’t playing much tennis anymore, but he still went to the courts occasionally, and he went to the casinos in Atlantic City a couple of times a week to play craps or blackjack.
In other words, he was busy; no days were empty.
But then the decline crept in and began to wipe away his interests and skills. The insidiousness of this hideous disease makes the early stages deceptive. One day I would think to myself, “He hasn’t done …. for a while,” and soon he wouldn’t go at all.
Bo stopped building and flying the model planes (some of them VERY big) after the first year, and after about four years, I started to think that the airplane supplies should be sold or given away. It ate at me: how could I part with all of these things that meant so much to him? What if he realized that I was removing his hobby?
Finally, when he had stopped even going into the basement, I contacted the president of his airplane club who came here on four nights — after Bo was in bed — and helped me pack everything to sell. We packed it all into his SUV each night, and finally we also filled my car, then everything was sold at an auction. Now the basement was empty and I felt guilty, but at the same time, there was a sense of relief.
It took me longer to part with his two sets of golf clubs and thousands of balls. I felt awful parting with them — couldn’t do it until this spring after he was in the garage one day, picked a ball from a bucket and asked, “What’s this for?” When I told him, he looked at me blankly, and I knew I could part with all of the golf equipment. Again I felt just awful because each time that I created an empty space in the house, I was also acknowledging the blank spaces in Bo’s mind.
I sold his car last year (he had voluntarily stopped driving about four years ago) when I felt sure he wouldn’t even notice that it was gone. He had made it so easy for me by simply not driving. There are so many stories about Alzheimers patients who have to have their keys forcibly removed by their doctors or family members.
I wrote about his sad, final trip to the casino in my blog on December 25, 2010 when we went and he didn’t play, just stood there helplessly, then walked out.
I awoke one day last week, saying to myself that I need to start thinning out Bo’s unneeded clothes. Doing this makes me acknowledge to myself how bad he is. I want to deny reality even though I’m faced with it every day as I watch him decline so quickly now. I KNOW that he will never wear his tuxedos or business suits or even his topcoat again. He won’t wear his black tassel loafers or his golf jackets, his ski jacket, his camping shirt or his tennis shorts. He won’t. But I get tears in my eyes as I write this. How much can I erase of this dear man? But I have to do it, I have to do it to help myself.
And so I started. I took several trips to Goodwill. I opened the trunk of my car and as the attendant removed everything, I shut my eyes, then I drove home feeling a new heaviness in my heart, realizing how little of him remains in the house … there is no word for this sadness.