Love and Marriage and Then comes…unbidden Alzheimer’s disease to spoil the retirement years we looked forward to during our working lives. It is hard not to feel sad on Valentine’s Day when the memories of past Valentine’s celebrations are one-sided. I remember the little gold love knot earrings my husband bought on our first Valentine’s Day and the tiny heart dotted with semi-precious stones on a thin gold chain my husband purchased for me the following year; I wear them every year on Valentine’s Day to remind myself of our second-time-around miracle. Bob used to remark every time he saw them, “How lucky I am to have found you!”
We were both lucky; all each of us wanted was not to be alone, Bob after his beloved wife died of cancer and me after the last of my three children was off to college. Many of the attendees at my Alzheimer disease caregiver support groups are participants in second marriages. One person admitted feeling guilty placing a spouse in a facility although it is not safe to keep the person at home any longer; the guilt feelings from the first divorce, the feelings of failure creep into the current decisions.
Love changes over time and many different loves find their way into our hearts during our lifetimes. Each has a place and a time of its own; we don’t love our ill spouses less, merely differently. And sometimes it happens, as it did to Sandra Day O’Connor, our former Supreme Court Justice, our spouses find someone else to hold hands with and to walk with at the care facility and hardly recognize us when we walk in the door. Although my dear husband knows who I am each time I visit, he also holds his arms out to hug all of the familiar care workers and even some of the other residents’ visitors when they arrive.
February marks one year since Bob entered Arbor Rose Senior Care. He is content, no longer angry or agitated. His health is good and the care he receives from the workers is loving and caring every day. I wish them all a Happy Valentine's Day!