I Take Thee


Our Rehearsal Dinner, May 2, 1997.

Our Rehearsal Dinner, May 2, 1997.

Today was our anniversary. And it sucked.

What a difference a year makes. Here is my post from last year about our anniversary. I can feel the love and warmth when I read the words. I am struggling today to feel them.

I try really hard to not fall prey to a self pity party. I try my best to be a realist and just keep moving forward. I focus on the kids. I focus on work. I focus on Jim. I focus on house stuff and bills and friends and the news and whatever else I need to without worrying about me. So far this philosophy has been helpful. I believe it is keeping my head above water and keeping me sane.

But today, I slipped out of my self preservation mode and dove right into the “woe is me” bag of self sorrow.

I knew not to expect much. But Jim had been upset at Easter that he didn’t have a card for me. I was a little confused because we don’t normally exchange Easter cards, but I thought I had learned from this. Earlier in the week, I started reminding him our anniversary was Saturday and then the following week is Mother’s Day. I told him and the kids to discuss what they wanted to do for Mother’s Day and to let me know so I could take them to the store. It seems so, so… what is the word I am searching for? Reminding someone and then taking them to make sure they get you a card or gift….Uncomfortable? Narcissistic? Selfish? Materialistic?  All of the above?

But I had seen how upset he was at Easter and a few years ago on Mother’s Day when they hadn’t gotten me anything and I decided I would be proactive and all would be ok. I honestly have no pre-conceived notions on what I want or expect. That should have made it all smooth sailing.

So on Thursday, I asked Jim if he would like for me to take him to the store to get me a card. We (I) had decided we wouldn’t exchange any gifts for our anniversary, but just cards. He didn’t want me to drive him, so he walked to the store. It is about a mile from our home. He was there and back in less than 30 minutes. I was impressed and feeling pretty good about my decision to be proactive and felt we had done well planning ahead. Of course we do still have Mother’s Day next weekend….

This morning, Brad was up way too early. I didn’t feel well. Brad broke a beautiful pottery bowl a dear friend had given me. Jim didn’t even acknowledge our anniversary even after I told him “Happy Anniversary” and gave him my card. He couldn’t find the card he purchased. It has somehow disappeared. So I guess somewhere in his mind if he didn’t tell me “Happy Anniversary” or that he loved me or anything acknowledging our relationship, then it would make the fact he didn’t have a card for me all right.  I felt worse and worse as the day moved along even though I kept telling myself it doesn’t matter, he has Alzheimer’s, we are still so lucky, blah, blah, blah. My head hurt, my throat hurt and I was tired. I sat at a baseball game and then two softball games, something that usually takes my worries away.

No luck this time.

I called a friend and started to tell her about my day.

“You didn’t really expect him to remember your anniversary, did you?”

Yes. I believe I did.

I am supposed to now become this robot with no feelings. I am not supposed to expect love and acknowledgment. I am not supposed to care when he shows no emotions or tenderness. I am expected to just say, ”He has Alzheimer’s,” and move on.  Yet, I am supposed to show him sympathy and caring and love and patience and understanding at ALL TIMES.

Well, sometimes that just doesn’t happen. Sometimes I want more and sometimes I don’t have anything left to give to anyone.

After Brad broke the bowl this morning, I lost it. Not just at Jim. But at Brad. There were several things he (Brad) should have done in the morning when he got up that he hadn’t and I was tired. Tired of repeating myself. Tired of being disappointed. Tired of being a dictator. Tired of worrying about finances. Tired of trying to get the house clean. When Brad asked me if I was ok, instead of my normal answer of “Yes, I am fine.” I told him and everyone within earshot the truth. “No. No, I am not ok.” What Mom tells her 10 year old she isn’t “ok”?

I am not a machine. I have feelings. I think most normal people would be disappointed if they weren’t acknowledged on their anniversary.  Even if their spouse has Alzheimer’s Disease. Because even if it isn’t their “fault”, it is a stark reminder of where your life is and where it is going to be. It is front and center, nothing else to focus on or to hide behind. It is like being naked and searching for a cover up, only to find the only cover you can find is see-through. It hurts, even as I am  fully aware that I am supposed to understand and not care and therefore it shouldn’t hurt.

Tomorrow is a new day and we will start our 18th year of marriage. I have 12 full months to prepare myself for another anniversary.

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (12)

12 Responses to “I Take Thee”

  1. Rita Hatke says:

    Oh Karen, I am sorry. I totally understand. I asked a friend to remind Mike that Mother’s Day is coming up. I’m afraid I will have a major melt down if he forgets again this year. We went to a wedding today and I mentioned that a verse that was read today was also read at our wedding, Mike didn’t remember. I wanted to wail! He does not have my permission to forget our wedding memories! Alzheimer’s is so cruel and unfair.

  2. Kathy Taylor says:

    I am so sorry, Karen!! I am sorry for you, your children, and Jim. I am sorry for me!! Alzheimers is such an evil disease. My Carlton will not remember Mother’s Day or our 48th wedding anniversary in June. Sometimes he doesn’t even remember me. I still have him at home, thanks to adult day care two days a week and a dear lady who will come any weekend that I need her. I also can leave him with my 93 year old SuperMom and several other family and friends for short periods. The thing is, all of this costs, and money, after 7 years, is getting tighter and tighter. Everyone dealing with this horrible disease is stressed to the max! God bless everyone watching their spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, friend, or anyone else that you love slowly slipping into someone you really don’t know!! We all understand what you are going through.

  3. Kate Pennington says:

    “What kind of Mom tells her 10 year old she isn’t ok?” A Mom who is only human and who is doing the best she can in unimaginably difficult circumstances. Please forgive yourself for reacting honestly. Thank you for sharing your struggle with all of us. I don’t know you personally, and I don’t face the same struggle (my 82-y-o mom has Alzheimer’s), but my heart goes out to you, and I am holding you and Jim and your children in my thoughts.

  4. emily says:

    One of my AlzSpouse friends linked to this post on FB today. I lived through years of what you’re describing. Lost my husband last year (in the final, physical way,) after 10 years of the rest of him fading away.

    Still trying to recover from the almost…no, really, PTSD-like effects of having had to, as you say, become a robot-like entity to survive. I am not sorry that I did what I saw as necessary–presented a caring, attentive front to keep his life tolerable, for a decade, while suppressing personal needs to the extent that I could. But there’s anxiety to work through in the aftermath.

    Bad disease. Robs the victim of his life long before it kills him, and leaves the caregiver with plenty of emotional scarring.

    On a positive note, I’m having a good life now. Got to be honest with the scars, and treat yourself and everyone else gently.

  5. Mary says:

    Karen, I’m so sorry; I think I know just how you feel. The upset over the forgotten card, the reminder of Jim’s declining abilities, and to make matters worse the event is a wedding anniversary – a celebration of marriage – a marriage that no longer exists. The marriage you chose was one to a man that was brilliant and capable and made you feel safe and secure and hopeful. That marriage is gone and you are now in a marriage in which you are trapped. Trapped by devotion and love but, nevertheless, trapped.

    I find it easier just to let these special days pass with as little fanfare as possible- it’s just part of the new normal.

    I think it’s really important to indulge in a self-pity party now and then. In the shower, in a parking garage, anywhere you can have a good, long, bawling cry without disturbing your children. You’ve got to let the stress out.

    Be honest with your children about how difficult it is dealing with all of the disappointments that come with Jim’s disease. Tell them it is hard not to take some of it personally, even though you know you shouldn’t because Jim can’t help it. They may be happy to hear that, because I am certain they are experiencing the same emotions, and the guilt that comes with having those emotions.

    Keeping you and your family in prayer.

  6. Lee says:

    Beautiful picture. You were a beautiful couple and obviously madly in love.
    Wishing you the best.

  7. jublke says:

    Heartbreaking post. Sending you love and hugs to get through your next anniversary.

  8. Kimberly Smith says:

    I’m sorry about your anniversary. Our anniversary is May 20th, and I know the sadness you are feeling. It’s hard for some people to understand how much a card, flowers and the compliments mean to us from our spouses that make us feel good about ourselves. My husband turned 58, on May 3rd and has progressed quite a bit in the past couple of weeks. I hate this disease and what it has done to my wonderful husband and our family. I’m praying for you and your family and sending hugs your way.

  9. Sandy says:

    Can you find a way to get your attention needs satisfied by friends, parents, your brother? When you dress up and want someone to tell you that you look good or acknowledge your birthday or anniversary, can you find a way to get that joy from some best friends? Make new traditions with them. Maybe then you won’t feel like Jim isn’t giving you the emotional support. I can acknowledge it’s hard to have everyone in your home need you, and I can comfortably say I’ve experienced that, so I encourage you to find a way to have no expectations of emotional support at home. Use everyone else. It will truly bring down your stress level and help avoid those outbursts.

  10. John says:

    Karen, you are a remarkable person and I know you’ll bounce back from this disappointment. We’re all pulling for you and your family.

  11. Linda says:

    hi…it’s Kelley and Kim’s mom….my brother’s wife is in the very final stages of this dreaded illness….every anniversary ..birthday…mother’s day….his birthday….he give her the most beautiful cards…thanking her for their life….for teaching him patience…teaching him to really love….all these wonderful things…little teeny things….and gives her the card….she cant read them….but he puts them on the mantel or end table beside her….he says it gives him great joy to thank her and express it to her….just a thought….there is a box of cards he has written to her for the past ten years…so he still celebrates and thanks…he is amazing….he say he still cries in the parking lot…etc….but the love is amazing.

  12. Paul says:

    My wife has Alzheimer’s and this year was our 19th wedding anniversary and the first time she has not acknowledged our special day and that was so hard on me! But what I remind myself of is the fact that I know the only reason she didn’t remember is because this stupid sickness has robbed her of everything. I made sure that we went away for the weekend and I invited our two closest friends to go with us so I had someone to wish me a happy anniversary even when it was no longer possible for my wife to remember to do it. I have so many great memories of our past anniversaries and I try my best to focus on them but its still so hard to know I won’t every hear the words… “Happy Anniversary” from Marie again. I miss her so much and I seem to find myself crying more and more every day… But I want to take care of her the best that I possibly can because I know she would do the same for me! We gotta hang on… for them!

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