Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fuck You Alzheimers...Fuck You. A Love Story



This is a love story.

Of our best friends, the wife has early onset Alzheimers. She’s had it since her mid 50’s. She’s 61 now. And every single day, she is leaving us a little bit more. Well, a lot more.

I’ll call her Daisy, it’s not her name, but I feel protective of her. Daisy and her husband were our neighbors for many years. His name is Dennis. That is his real name. I think he is a tough guy, so I’m not afraid to use his real name.

Though they are older than we are, with grown kids, we started having a relationship of geography. (Hey, we just happened to see each other ALL the time. We lived on a dirt road and The Husband had a tractor. We had needs, you know how that goes… except instead of asking to borrow a power tool, we would ask him to get on his tractor and smooth out our driveways). That relationship grew into a friendship, and now, they are our family.

We always thought Daisy was a little “dingy”. Sweet, fun, beautiful and well…just dingy. Going over to their house for dinner was an experience in hunger, patience and manic-ness and she ran from the table to the kitchen and back, cuz she couldn’t remember what she needed. You know . . . ditzy.

But the ditziness got worse, and all of a sudden it wasn’t a charming personality quirk. After trips to the neurologist and those horrible tests where she was asked to count backwards from 100 by 7’s (hey try it . . . see if it doesn’t scare the shit out of you) the diagnosis came back: Early Onset Alzheimers.

There was shock and crying and grief. But then the worst of that passes and there is just settling into the New Normal.

You know, where you can’t have a real conversation with her anymore.

Where Dennis has lost his partner/soulmate/best friend of 20 years.

But in the beginning of this, man, Daisy was pissed. She hated the doctor for asking her questions she couldn’t answer and she hated us and her husband for talking “behind her back”.

And she felt so insulted by the diagnosis. She used to say, when she stumbled about something: I’m not a nit wit you know. I’m not a nutter. (She’s English, you know…)

“No Lovey, we don’t think that. You just have a little condition about remembering.”

Those feisty years are coming to an end. Now Daisy is so delightful. Everything makes her laugh.

My kids understand that in a restaurant when she says: I’ll take the girls to the Restroom, that THEY are the ones taking her.

We all pitch in to help her do her belt, or get her shoes on or keep her pesky zipper zipped UP.

If we tell my daughters that Daisy may not come visit us this weekend, they shout out, BUT WE CAN TAKE CARE OF HER. WE WANT OUR DAISY.

She gets lost trying to find the bathroom in her own house.

She and Dennis have some weddings and fancy events to go to this year. Dennis handed me a bag with the junkiest, most overwhelming, TON of makeup and said: Can you help me figure this out?

I told him to give me the credit card and I’d be right back. (Hey they’re our best friends. Why shouldn’t I speak to him just like I speak to my own husband.)

I went to Target and bought a few simple things. Then I labeled each brush and each compact. Then I made a list. Then I took photos.

Then I gave Dennis lessons.

It is a good thing Daisy is tough, cuz Dennis is a former Marine, do it yourself Home Remodeler, and man’s man. That was some harsh eye shadow application there, Dude!

But you know what? Daisy looked pretty. She looks better with some eyebrow and a little color.

Daisy is leaving us. And she’s not just leaving us and our kids. She’s leaving her daughters and her grandkids and most painfully, she’s leaving her husband.

You know, before Alzheimer’s had her, Daisy was never an “I love you” girl. But she is now.

And cuz she can’t remember anything, she tells me she loves me over and over and over. I kinda love that part. Cuz I love her too. And now I can say it as much as I want. (And no one questions whether or not I have been drinking too much.)

Every day Dennis and Daisy set out to have a good day. And every day I miss her. Every day I think: Fuck You Alzheimers.

I love you too, Daisy. I love you too.

24 comments:

  1. That is just heartbreaking... Dennis and Daisy sound wonderful - so sad that they have been dealt this hand.

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  2. Dee - this is an amazing story! Brutally honest and so well written. XO Babe!

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  3. Like a thief in the night, it steals. Not only to take your brain from you, but to let you be aware of it as it happens.

    Outstanding job. What a horrible, beautiful story. Bravo.

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  4. This was retweeted by one of my followers on Twitter. I'm glad I came to read. What a heart-warming, heartbreaking story. I have a friend who is dealing with two Alzheimer's parents (her mother & her mother-in-law). It changes everyone.

    Hang in there. My prayers are with you.

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  5. I know how difficult it is to watch someone so slowly slip away; yet be strong not only for yourself, but for others. My grandmother is in final stages of this tragic disease. I went to visit last night, and wanted to weep. She is simply the shell of who Grandma used to be.

    To watch someone slowly slip away is the worst thing of all. My thoughts and my heart goes out to all of you. Prayers, too.

    I'll drink a martini for ya, also!

    Brenda@heartcenteredpsychic

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  6. This made me weepy. I'm sorry for all of you, and Dennis, and Daisy's kids and grandchildren.

    Alyson
    www.commonsense-dancing.com

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  7. This is so blunt and it really says how this disease affects everyone. I am sad you are losing a friend, but she is so very lucky to have your love. More important, is her husband is so lucky to have you... our mom's never told us life would be like this...

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  8. I think you are one of the most loving, tough, thoughtful, strong, gentle women I know! I love that you are in my life. Now come have a Martini and bring that man of yours. He's great too! XOXO

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  9. Oh, so sad. And scary. My husband's family has a history with Alzheimer's, and it scares the shit out of me. Big hugs to you all.

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  10. My dear neighbor has Alzheimer's. Miss Geri lives with her daughter but has no idea who her daughter is...heartbreaking. She gets lost in the house, can't remember her grandchildren, and forgets to eat. She weighs 75 pounds. The doctor's say she is healthy in body so she may live for many more years. And everyday she slips away. Her daughter, her grandkids, her friends all join you in saying Fuck you Alzheimer's

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  11. My grandfather had it. horrible fucking disease. daisy is lucky to have you in her life.

    I'm so sorry for everyone involved.

    big hug.

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  12. I'm "Daisy's" daughter's fiancee and couldn't agree more; Fuck you Alzheimer's. Daisy is a beautiful and wonderful woman and Dennis is her rock and one hell of a great guy. Thank you for your blog.

    Darren

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  13. I've known Daisy and Dennis for a number of years. Fun,Funny,Energetic,Pretty,are just a few thoughts that come to mind when I think of Daisy. Loyal,Kind,Tough,Smart,are few things that jump out when I think of Dennis. A truely tragic disease...but a blessing they have each other and friends like you!!! Almost more then I could take!!!

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  14. Oh My Darlings, My Dears! I couldn't even wade into this discussion after I posted the blog. (Too emotional, even Ms. Potty Mouthed Me!) Thank you for all the love and the comments. Darren - You've got a winner in that beautiful Sarah!

    Dennis and Daisy are my inspiration to laugh more and have a good day, every day! So now, I'm going to go NOT YELL at my kids! Love, Dee Dee

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  15. Daisy is my Mum, and Dennis is my stepdad. They both are truly amazing, strong, wonderful, caring, loving, fun, positive parents to me. DeeDee thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing this Blog. The realism is poignant and harsh, but it is the truth of this wretched disease that is erasing the most amazing Mum anyone could wish for. She is still with us, and will always be forever, but slowly "Daisy" is fading away from everyone and everything she loves. It is heart breaking and cruel, and yet there is nothing, absolutely NOTHING any one of us can do apart to slow the inevitable down. I encourage each and every one of you reading this blog to be there in person or in spirit, and hold Daisy AND Dennis' hand through this each and every single day. I LOVE YOU Mum. xoxo

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  17. That made my heart ache:( Thank you for sharing this story... it gives life just a little more perspective. xoxo

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  18. Ok, it's taken me a week to be able to write anything. Dennis is my brother, or, at least, that is how we feel about each other (John, please don't be offended). We were together when we met "Daisy" in England over twenty years ago. She was a marvel of perpetual motion and constant chatter. She knew (and still knows) all that is "proper." No sleeping on the couch, no bread pudding, and "you Americans" have just got it all wrong! As she has faded and grown more quiet, I have discovered that I miss her old personality, and yet have fallen in love with this new and constantly changing one. True, this is a simple person whose needs grow and change each day, but I still see her love for Dennis, and for her children and grandchildren (and Dee Dee's kids, too!). Dennis has been stoic, and I know he misses their chats after work, their gin and tonics, and all that they have learned to share and love about each other.

    Dee Dee, thank you for speaking out and making us all think, and remember. And for pointing out what a great man Dennis is! He's my best friend, he's Uncle Dennis to my son, and he just doesn't deserve this! God bless him for making us laugh as he shares his experiences...how else can we handle it?..for Christ sake...he does her make up, her clothes...all of it!

    Thanks again, Dee Dee, for your depth, your thoughtfullness, and your energy to tackle this subject.

    All the best,

    Keith

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  19. This was a beautiful post. Alzheimer's is the worst. In some ways I really think it is worse than a lot of other diseases, because at least with other things, you still have your memories. You are a wonderful friend to her...the world needs more people like you!

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  20. I fear this for my own mother. Each of her father's siblings were taken by Alzheimer's. I hope I can show as much compassion and understanding as Dennis and you. Heartbreaking, and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing 'Daisy' with us.

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  21. Keith - your post was so amazing and from the heart. I know that you love Dennis, and I've seen your love for both of them and their daughters over the years.

    And Dennis is a hero in our family. We try to adapt the Dennis and Daisy strategy: Live is an adventure every day - take the long road and EXPLORE. That is good for me, cuz I am a hurry, hurry, hurry, get from Point A to Point B kinda girl.

    Sarah - your Mum is a treasure in our lives! She is here with us now - making us laugh and loving us up!

    Thanks for the loving words from everyone. I'm glad Dennis's story can make him a hero for others too! Now, would it be wrong if I just slipped out for a bit and took a little nap???

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  22. I know both Daisy and Dennis, and I heard the story about you taking his credit card and going shopping, and giving him lessons and reminding him that the eyes are delicate! Listening to Dennis tell this story made me love him even more and made this single girl remember that this type of absolute true and selfless love exists and is worth waiting for. Daisy is a remarkable woman and is so loved. Thank you for sharing your love for them both!

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  23. Oh Wendie - Dennis is such a huge influence in our lives. He's my hero. Cuz not only does he take care of Rosemary every day, while maintaining his career and being there for their four daughters, (and US!), he does it all with such love, and joy and grace. Honey - there's a good man out there for you too! Dee Dee

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Tell me what ya think, babe!