By Dale Perini
My wife, Karen, whom I have been married to for 55 years as of February 9, 2018, is afflicted with Alzheimer’s. I took her to see a Neurologist for the first time in 2004. He said her only problem was the ability to focus, which supposedly happens to a lot to long term teachers. She had taught Home Economics in Junior High School for 21 years. Later, I took her to a Wellness Center in Houston. Some friends suggested we consider she may have a hormone deficiency. Then I took her to the Mayo Clinic and we were told she just had mild cognitive impairment. Finally, on our 2nd visit to Mayo Clinic we were told she definitely had Alzheimer’s. That was in 2007.
Things were really pretty good in the beginning. She could travel, feed herself, bathe herself and take care of herself. We went through the normal stuff most families do in the beginning: the same questions over and over, wanting to go home, and not really knowing who I was or who any of her children or grandkids were. She was on Aricept and Namenda and I feel like those drugs may have given us a little more time together. They don’t cure anything, but seem to hide the symptoms for awhile. She also took part in an experimental drug program with a neuroscience medical group. The first couple of years we don’t know if she received the experimental drug or the placebo, but after a couple of years the drug seemed to be working and she was given the real medication. And then 2014 happened …
At the beginning of 2014, Karen was probably in the 2nd or 3rd stage of Alzheimer’s. By July of 2014 she was in the 7th Stage! She could no longer perform any of her daily functions, but most importantly, she forgot how to talk. I literally watched her leave me and our family a day at a time.
If could have just five minutes of my Karen back, what would I say? A wonderful Social Worker with Hospice (Karen has been on and off Hospice twice) gave me the answer and I have seen a booklet at our church that says the same thing.
First, I would ask her forgiveness. I wish now all the crazy things I said or did that hurt her, I wish I had been compassionate enough to have left unsaid and undone. I know that is impossible because we are human, but I would ask her to please forgive me. That I was so sorry that I ever hurt her in any way.
Second, I would tell her I forgave her for anything she ever did to hurt me. But you know what, I can’t really remember one thing she ever did to hurt me. I can only remember the times I was the dumb one!
Third, I would tell her thank you! Thank you for all she has done to give me a wonderful life. Thank you for two beautiful children, Robin and Stephen. Through them we have a beautiful daughter-in-law, Jodi, and three of the greatest grandkids ever, Haley, Hayden and Lanie. Thank you for just being Karen! If I could go back to the Spring of 1962, I would do it all over again in a minute.
Fourth, I would tell her how much I love her. I think I have done that every day of our lives but I would make doubly sure I did and I would do it even more often. I still tell her that everyday. I’m not sure she hears me or understands me, but I hope she does. Karen has been very easy to love. She is one of the kindest, sweetest persons I have ever known.
Finally, I would tell her good-bye! I would tell her I will never forget her and it is OK to leave me. We will always be together in each others’ hearts. And, mainly because of Karen, we both know we will get to spend eternity together because we both know Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died for our sins. Such a simple thing we both need to know and believe to get to spend eternity together.