Valentine’s Ashes

Thank you Patti Brown for this amazing photo. 2008.

Thank you Patti Brown for this amazing photo. 2008.

I suppose this time of year is unbearably hard for those who don’t have a Valentine. I have never been a big fan of the holiday, even when I did have a Valentine. Now it seems every commercial, every restaurant, grocery store and online pop up ad flashed a “YOU DONT HAVE A VALENTINE” in my face. Yes, I do have a Valentine. A man who has loved me when I am not worthy and who has forgiven my faults and shortcomings for many years. A man I admired and respected enough to marry and have a family with. So, I know I have a Valentine, but according to the ad executives, I don’t. Because he can’t buy me jewelry or chocolates or the perfect Hallmark card. He didn’t even remember or seemed concerned once he was given his chocolates and told “Happy Valentine’s Day”. That is the part that stings now. He was at the point where he couldn’t think far enough ahead to plan for a holiday. Now, when the holiday is here, he is oblivious to what his role would have been. Each year that passes and each holiday that has expectations attached reveal the layers that have peeled away in Jim’s mindset.

I spent Valentine’s evening dropping Frances off with a friend so she could spend the night and then go skiing the next day. I am so grateful to that family because she loves skiing and I am not going to be able to take her this year. When I dropped her off, the family invited me to join them for dinner. As I sat in their beautiful kitchen, watching them work together to fix a lovely meal, listening to the girls play ukuleles and joining in as everyone sang along… heart hurt. This was an evening that I would want to host in our own home, with Jim helping and our family being the warm and inviting refuge others want to visit. It wasn’t that I was jealous, amazingly, I wasn’t. It was just a bittersweetness and yet I was happy and having a great time. I love sharing time with them and love the fact Frances is able to visit and to be part of a family who can sing and cook together and go skiing. I love the kids being with other families and seeing what other relationships are like when one of them isn’t sick.

The next night, Jim, Brad and I went to visit different friends and it was the same.  Others working together to host us, fix a nice meal with lots of laughter and fun. Again, I was both happy and sad. I loved the fact we had friends to hang out with. I loved the fact that Brad was able to see the communication between other adult couples and play games with us and to witness a different side of marriage. Yet, I recognize that it is becoming more and more difficult to remember us as that type of couple: full of chit chat and hugs and laughter.

It must shine a magnifying glass on certain things in our home when the kids visit with their friends. I wonder if they notice the difference in marital relationships….. I am sure they do. They are observant kids. I wonder how all of this will eventually affect their own marriages and relationships…..I wonder so many things; all the time. My mind constantly seems to be going full throttle, but there are times it seems to be puttering out on me. I am forgetting words and at moments having a hard time saying exactly what I am trying to convey. It is so frustrating. I know it is the stress, but it also helps me understand how frustrating it can be for Jim to not be able to find the right words. And lately, he is having a harder and harder time.

I know I will get through this most romantic time of the year without a romantic partner. Yet, I can’t help but wonder how I will ever be happy again? I don’t mean with another man. I mean, AT ALL? By myself, with someone, with the kids….AT ALL? I know what it feels like to be loved, cared for and to have a partner; in the kitchen, on the slopes, with the kids, playing games, lying on the couch reading or watching a movie or just communicating without words…. in life….and I don’t have one anymore. I have always known I am an independent person and surely this must be coming in handy, but I don’t know that being a strong willed, independent person helps take the sting out of lonely nights and thoughts that can no longer be shared and dreams kept quiet and shows watched alone.   I am acutely aware of the singleness that is overcoming my life. Jim is fighting hard to stay with us, which makes my recognition of these feelings of aloneness and solitude more inappropriate. I am not going through a divorce. I am not part of a relationship where the husband is out all night and I am sitting home alone. I am not supporting a man who won’t go find a job. I am thankfully not caring for someone violent, angry or ungrateful. I have many things for which I am appreciative,  yet I am longing for a life I no longer have. I can witness it and taste a sampling, but I cannot have that happy home with an equal partner. The worst part is I had it. I had all of what I long for, and it is slipping away one plaque and tangle at a time.

posted by Karen in Early Signs of Alzheimer's,Early Stages of Alzheimer's Disease,Uncategorized,Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease and have Comments (13)

13 Responses to “Valentine’s Ashes”

  1. Tom says:

    Wow, Karen. It’s almost like my own thoughts & feelings coming out through your words. I know so much of what you expressed. I bought 3 bags of Dove chocolate hearts, Linda’s favorites, and have been sharing them with her every night since Valentines. No special Valentine meals anymore as she eats mostly with her fingers. Just sharing chocolates like we’ve been doing for 30 years. I understand the had it & lost it feeling, even more so when we are with friends. While it’s great to be with them, it’s also so obvious what’s not right anymore. Thanks for this piece, as it touches so many of us.

  2. Jeri says:

    Yes, that is a very real part of our lives now. We “had” the life that we long for now. Today, I was talking to my neighbor about the fact that my pipes burst due to the negative 18 degree night we had, which is not the norm for where I live. I have come to rely on DWIGHTS brother, Don for so many things. Like when any emergency concerning Dwight arises…..and even when the pipes burst last night. I was telling her that I don’t know what I would do without Don to turn to and that I’m so grateful that he’s there and that I know he’s doing it for Dwight, as much as he’s doing it for me and honestly that makes it even more special. Then my friend said “well you know that even though Dwight hasn’t passed away….you’re stil considered a widow because you’re alone now. That’s true I guess. I’m sure some people do think of me that way. But I don’t. And I’m not sure I ever will. I miss our life together so much. Even the one sided arguments….me doing the arguing and Dwight saying “yes Dear.” :)

  3. Rita says:

    Karen, you and your family are in my prayers daily. This valentines days was the worst yet. Yes we quit celebrating holidays over 9 years ago but this year we ended up in ER at the hospital. My husband was in stage five of Alzheimer’s, just starting to see stage six. He now has asperated pneumonia in both lungs from losing his ability to swallow. He asperated twice in the hospital. I am now spoon feeding him and changng diapers. This sudden changed happened over 12 hours. Bingo. Stage seven of Alzheimer’s.

  4. Steve says:

    So many of your blogs mirror my thoughts and experiences! We are in our 6th year now. Diane’s ( and mine) journey started when she was 56. She is entering, or in the last stage of dementia. Has been in nursing home care for. 3 1/2 years. I live alone now and it is so difficult to leave her everyday! I still want to care for her myself but realize it isn’t possible! We have been married 41+ years. Thank you for saying what I haven’t been able to.

  5. Phyllis Gallagher says:

    My god Karen, im so glad my husband’s kids are grown. The youngest (26) took her Dad for a valentine card for me.then informs me dad can’t write his name-he hasn’t been able to for almost a year.
    But the way you express the happy and sad is totally how I feel. We go out & have fun but really is it? It’s a sad, crazy, weird sometimes we have fun life.

  6. Maria Cordero says:


    I think of you, Jim and the kids often. Thought about you on Valentine’s Day, as a matter of fact. I took care of my dad for four years and that was difficult! I cannot fathom what you go through everyday. Sending prayers and good thoughts your way.

  7. My mom passed away 5/30/14 at the age of 66 after my family and I watched her slip away from us for 11 years. Watching my dad’s heart break every time we lost a little more of her was excruciating, worse than the pain of watching her slowly become a mere shell of a person. We were lucky in that whatever world my mother retreated to, she always seemed happy and seemed to know she was loved, even when it was clear that she had no idea who we were anymore. Early onset Alzheimers is especially cruel in that it advances more quickly than in those who begin to exhibit dementia later in life. All I can tell you is that while yes, we still miss her terribly and I am crying as I write this, that you are experiencing the worst part right now. Losing little pieces here and there, wondering if that was the last time you are going to see him be able to do or say that. Those moments when he gets frustrated or upset because he knows what’s going on and there is nothing you can do will start to occur less frequently and it is this weird state of limbo where you are grateful that your loved one is no longer upset, but it means you are losing them. Those seconds of recognition you get a glimpse of before they disappear again become precious. Eventually they become non-existent and it is heartbreaking. My parents met in high school and were together since they were 17 and 14. She died a few months before what would have been their 47th anniversary. Honestly, when my mom went into hospice, I was extremely concerned about how my dad was going to fare once she was gone, even though in reality she had been gone for quite some time already. I am very ill myself and was unable to travel to be with him and I felt terrible about it and I was so worried. I think even he was surprised with how okay he was once she passed. I know this is not at all comforting to hear right now, trust me I know it isn’t, but I can tell you that when that state of limbo finally comes to an end, there is a surprising overwhelming sense of peace and relief that takes over the seemingly never ending state of grief that you have been in.
    Others have been where you are, and your blog posts are helping those who are going through it with you, or are just starting to experience it. You are not alone in this experience, but it does feel that way. Cherish the moments and the memories you have. I know just from following your blog that Jim is well loved and you will get through this with more strength than you think you have. You are in my thoughts and prayers. xo

  8. Joan says:

    Karen I met my husband of 31 years when he asked me to dance at a valentines school dance! This year we didn’t acknowledge Valentines..Yes its sad but I was lucky enough to have a passionate romantic marriage after 38 years together! And I’ve been so wrapped up with Alzheimer’s and sharing his pain that I forget I don’t have it,and there will be joy again.I’m lucky enough to have a little grandchild that I can hold in my arms and one day you will,and please God there will be a cure! I salute you on all your accomplishments for Alzheimer’s patients,not everyone has your drive! Peace!

  9. Kerry Daniels says:

    I appreciate your writing. It must painful and also pain-releasing at the same time to write. If that makes any sense. I feel so bad for you, my step mom lost my dad last year to Alzheimers. It hurts but she is still here, and has family to love, even though it will never be the same. Prayers for you.

  10. Dear Karen, Your V-Day post was amazing. Your statement “and it is slipping away one plaque and tangle at a time.” said so much. My husband died with Alzheimer’s almost 5 years ago and I came to call the disease “the disease of 10,0000 good-byes” as it seemed each day was filled with saying good-bye to something from being able to put his arm in the sleeve of a shirt to forgetting our dog’s name. You spoke so well in this post and my heart reaches out to you in the pain of this trek through Alzheimer’s and loss. Take care of YOU!!! Peace, Mary

  11. Maureen says:

    Hi Karen, what a great post! It is so difficult I identify with all your feelings. Thank you for sharing today!
    xoxo Maureen

  12. The one thing we wives is you had the family, laughing, planning one time. Karen look for joy yjay is the one thing that kept me going. Since Joe left this world with a smile on his face I don’t feel lonely anymore. One day we will meet again.

  13. dementedgirl says:

    It’s easy to say Valentines is just another day or a holiday dreamt up by ad execs, but with all those memories, how can it not hurt…? :(

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