Fast and Hard

Jim and his radar in Columbia, 1998

Jim and his radar in Columbia, 1998

Sometimes, when you least expect it, sadness and grief overcome you. I think this happens when someone you love dies. I am finding out the hard way that this also happens when someone you love has a disease that steals them from you bit by bit.

A few days ago I needed to go to the base for something. Jim is retired Air Force, so we still have base privileges.  I was by myself, in between meetings for work. It was a beautiful day, there were good tunes on my radio and I had no complaints.

It has been a few years since I have gone on the base and I wasn’t sure where I was going. I made it through the base gate just fine. Made it to the building I needed to with no problems. But as I was driving away, something hit me. An invisible phenomenon hit me hard and hit me fast. Out of nowhere. I couldn’t control the tears or stop the upheaval that had materialized inside of me. This unprovoked inner turmoil wasn’t even triggered by a song. I became completely enveloped in a sadness that comes from a subconscious I usually keep tucked away. The years of living on a base with Jim, seeing him in his uniform, watching him take so much pride in his job, his service to our country, his pure absorption of all things military and my complete lack of adherence to just about anything military were all swarming through my mind. Flashes of Jim, young, handsome, stoic, so sure of himself and so able were seriatim through my mind. It cut me into mush. I got short of breath. I was taken by surprise with this sudden burst of emotion. Emotion I was unable to contain.

Those unvolunteered flashbacks caused me to think of Jim. My Jim. The Jim I met, fell in love with, started a family with and thought I would grow old with. The Jim that people respected and looked up to. The Jim that took charge at work.  The Jim who coordinated care for millions of dollars worth of equipment.  And now it is his care that needs some coordinating. And that care will be augmented with each year we stumble through. I could see so clearly his smile and youth. His clear eyes and complete confidence as he walked through my memories.

While these flashbacks ran through my brain, it hit me how young and innocent and full of the future we were. Like most married couples, we expected to have a family, work hard, struggle for a few years with finances and teenage angst, then have our golden years to come back full circle and enjoy each other and the memories we could cherish. All we had to do was work hard at our marriage, our family and our life together.

It was another reminder that I will have those memories. Jim will not. I will remember him and our love and our early years together and our dreams of travel and grandkids and the comforting feeling of home whenever I was in his presence.

Intermingled with the images of Jim were pains of regret. Regret in my lack of interest in his military life. My inability to appreciate his extreme structure and just how successful and good he was at being a soldier. Why couldn’t I take it all in and see the bigger picture? I questioned all the rules and regulations too much. I resented the fact he was always traveling and we couldn’t choose where to live. I should have relaxed and let our life unfold and enjoy it while I could.

I recognize the fact that none of us are guaranteed a day. None of us know when our time is up. But one of the things that separates humans from any other animal on earth is our ability to remember our past, plan for our future and dream of things to come.

Ouch. I am a dreamer. I am a realist and I am a dreamer. I dream of many things. One of the things I dream is Jim and I, old, cherishing our family and retelling our stories of the kids and friends through the years. What I can’t remember, he will be able to recall with certainty. Why are those things being stripped from Jim when he is such a remarkable and great man?

Yes, it hurts. It is emotional draining. It is hard to imagine. And yet, it is here. With me 24/7, unrelenting and uncompromising.

At the Grand Canyon. 1998.

At the Grand Canyon. 1998.

By now my mascara was running and I was overwhelmed with grief. Knowing the man I was picturing in my mind and the visions from our past would always be in our past simply hurt. Hurt and bittersweet. The love and the times I can recall are wonderful times. But it hurts to know the dreams we shared and the fact they will not becoming true. That makes our love story and my memories bittersweet.

As I kept driving, I simply re-focused on my upcoming meeting and in a flash, my inner turmoil and tears evaporated. If I could only make all of my problems disappear as quickly and easily.

Our honeymoon. Puerta Vallarta Mexico. May 1997.

Our honeymoon. Puerta Vallarta Mexico. May 1997.

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (9)

9 Responses to “Fast and Hard”

  1. diana hull says:

    Even tho my husband has been gone for 1 1/2 yrs I can still breakdown like you said. Its good to just let it out.

  2. Debbie says:

    Having lost my husband to Early Alzheimer’s I know the pain of those sudden memories, the realization that the dreams of the future will never be. But reading your posts I can tell what a wonderful caring wife and mother you are. Find some thing positive in each day, no matter how small. Make a memory for yourself and or your children to cherish. Find something to make you smile, because the road is extremely hard, but if you just consintrate on the bad you will also drive yourself crazy. I know you have to make long range plans, but try not to overload your plate, you can handle today, tomorrow and next week, try not to dwell on next year or 5 years down the road. You are doing an excellent job with your kids and Jim. Thank you for sharing your story, I am positive that you are helping and encouraging many. God Bless you and your family

  3. Helen MacDonald says:

    Full of sympathy and understanding

  4. Rebecca Dykes says:

    God bless you Karen! I can hear the love in your stories about Jim, and I wish there were more like yours, so that people could understand the devastation of this ROAD to a family!! I am 51 years old and was diagnosed with EOAD, which the symptoms have been present foe about 4-5 years. I think my husband and kids are still in denial! I try to post and tell my story, but it’s eve hard some days with the thoughts so jumbled in my head. Thank you do much for your story and is it okay to share the things that you have posted? Best regards on your journey and wishing you continued patience, love and strength! Rebecca

  5. Anne says:

    Karen…I remember you so clearly as a precious, carefree and happy girl…you course now pulls at my heart strings as I read your blog and know the sorrow and loss you are experiencing. Your journey and your advocacy efforts will not fall short or your time given for this cause be for naught. Think of you so often. Love…

  6. Wendy says:

    Karen, I have days like those too. I am mourning not only what we have lost with Dan’s disease, but what will never be. It’s a dangerous place to be, but I navigate it as quickly as possible and try to get myself back on track. Easier said than done some days

  7. Deborah says:

    I am so grateful for your blog. My husband is 58 and was diagnosed at 52. I have always felt alone in this journey because I never knew anyone as young as us. I went to support groups but was always the youngest by 20 years. Three weeks ago I had to let my life long partner go. He was getting so bad and is now in an assisted living facility. I know the pain of doing things for the first time. That day when I walked into our home I sobbed the rest of the day. It hurts because he is still living but not with me. We cannot even be like normal people and mourn a death and heal. They are gone but still here. Again, I feel alone in this journey. Reading your story has helped me realize there are people my age going through the same horrible slow goodbye. Thank you.

  8. Sending love… and hugs… and prayers for your strength.

  9. Penney says:

    Steve received his diagnosis at 51 years old – barley 4 1/2 years ago. It has been a quick decline; considered now to be “end stage”. I wish I can tell you those periods of deep, raw sadness and grief that occur when you least expect it will subside. Unfortunately, they don’t. However, I have come to see them as emotional cleanses that wash over me, leaving me clear minded to be in the here and now.

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