2016 has been a tough year. A year of denial for me. A year of not wanting to admit the truth. It started in 2014ish, when I noticed Kris, my wife of 30 years, was doing some odd things. I noticed little things at first, like words she couldn’t remember, or losing her thought while telling a story. I kinda blew it off and attributed it to her artsy, creative mind.
She is quite creative. You can see some of her stuff here; krisart100.com
Our house is full of her artwork. I have watched her gather plastic, tissue paper, old grape vines and sheetrock compound. I would look on in amazement as she glued colored tissue paper between sheets of plastic, cut them out to look like real grape leaves, and then, use sheetrock compound and make hundreds of little grape sized balls and and paint each one by hand. They looked good enough to eat. She would mount it all on old doors and it looks like real grape vines growing across the panel. I have watched her work for hundreds of hours on an art project. She would sketch it out in detail. Decide the medium. We would discuss paint, or colored pencils or would it be a “create from scratch” project? She would choose the right tools or paint and colors. Then, she would dive in.
She was so focused.
Kris taught me everything I know about plants. We would go around the yard and she would name the flowers and tell me all sorts of interesting facts about them. She taught me how to garden, when to plant and when to harvest. She grew some of the best vegetables around. I might be a little biased, but they were the best. She would work for hours in the soil. She would weed the beds, work the soil to make it better. She would tell me how God talked to her as she worked in the dirt. Many times she hoped that there would be gardens in heaven and the dirt was gold.
She was so industrious.
Today she spent about 5-6 hours going through her knapsack, organizing and re-organizing the stuff in it; 6 lighters, a little jar of coins, wallet, keys, 10 Altoid tins, which hold her cigarettes, a coin purse with her lighters in it, a small purse with her wallet and phone, 2 phone chargers, 4 sets of earphones, gum, a couple of clothes pins, 2 “Tiles” so we can find her wallet and keys, which she has lost several times this week, and a few other random things that I can’t remember right now. She panics when she can’t find an item and carries the knapsack with her everywhere. This is her life right now.
I saw it coming. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to acknowledge that my fun, smart, creative wife was dealing with something. I was hoping it was slight ADD or just a few moments of, I don’t know, something other than what it is.
In October of 2015, Kris, My wife of 30 years, at the age of 54, was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers.
Today she struggles to even water the garden. She only goes out into the yard when I encourage her to come with me to look at the garden. She hasn’t done any art in a year, with the exception of an abstract she and her mom did one day. She spends most of the time sorting brushes and colored pencils and then putting them away.
I saw it coming when she would unload the dishwasher and stare in confusion at the cupboard with a glass in hand not knowing where to put it. I saw it coming when she couldn’t remember to water the seedlings at planting and they died. I saw it coming when she would always ask what day it was. I saw it coming the day she wanted to drive to Kansas to see her mom but got lost in town and had to come home.
A lot has happened these last 18 moths. I’ve been thinking about writing it down. I fear I have waited too long. So much has happened and things have progressed too fast. I can’t even keep it straight in my head. I want to tell her story, to honor her. So much has already happened. It’s gone from silly forgetful moments on her part, to me considering selling our home and looking for assisted living facilities.
How did we even get here? Why am I even thinking these things? I don’t know how I feel, except paralyzed. Everything in life has stopped. It’s like everything is on hold and I’m waiting for something, anything, to happen. A breakthrough? A new discovery or cure? A signal to move to the next decision?