When many of us hear about Alzheimer’s disease, we think about the memories lost forever and only think of the sadness of those affected. What about the memories themselves? They are not really lost forever as they are kept in the minds of loved ones, such as John who found himself in love later in life with a woman affected by Alzheimer’s. This story represents the paradox of Alzheimer’s: the disease that had brought them closer than ever but eventually was the reason why they had to part. It is a story with great highs but equally matched with great lows, but it demonstrates how a love story like this shows off the human side of this disease and we should not only think of the things that are lost but what is remembered.
Have you or anyone you know been affected by this disease and want to tell your story? Let us know in the comments.
Introduction written by Kelly
Original article by John Simons, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Alzheimer’s disease brought us together. The illness resulted in a relationship of greater intimacy and closeness than I ever could have imagined.
However, when I first met Dorothy I had no idea that she would be responsible for both the happiest and saddest periods of my life.
We met at a senior dance. Dorothy was a widow of nine years, and I was many years divorced. She had a PhD in theology, and I am a lifelong nonbeliever. We would joke about our different backgrounds while dancing. I did respiratory therapy, while she devoted her considerable talent to volunteer work.
From the beginning, some things were not quite right. Dorothy’s large house was filled to the brim with bags of clothing. She slept on the porch in a sleeping bag. Were these early signs of dementia? I don’t know. But when she saw my indoor bed, she immediately wanted to move in.
We joined a troupe that did historic dances, mostly of the Victorian era. This led us into Civil War reenacting. We taught tango and did waltz and tango exhibitions. We had the time of our lives dancing with each other.
Gradually I found myself doing more and more for her, and I enjoyed having this attractive and outgoing woman to look after. What I did in the beginning as courtly behavior slowly increased over the years. While we never married, I ended up taking full charge of her life.
I always will remember the day when she first became incontinent. We were in the medical building where I had just seen my eye doctor. A puddle appeared on the polished granite floor of the lobby. In time I dealt with the other kind of incontinence as well.
While her pleasant personality never changed, eventually Dorothy no longer wanted to stand or walk. I needed to ask for volunteer help, especially going up any stairs.
I soon realized that I should not inflict her needs upon others. Also, taking her along with me anywhere became impractical, and my constant bending and lifting were wearing me down physically. The time had come to place her in an assisted-living home, where she would receive better care than I was providing.
Dorothy adjusted instantly to the home, sensing that here she would receive the care she needed. But for me the time of heartbreak had begun. Ironically, I am the one who is suffering even though she is the one with the disease. She seems content in her dream world of dementia, while every day I am reminded of how much I have lost now that she has left my side.
Alzheimer’s disease provided a closeness that has been matched by the emptiness I now feel without her. Caring for Dorothy was the experience of a lifetime — a rewarding and fulfilling time that I will cherish as long as I may live.
Simons still feeds Dorothy lunch every day.
End-note by Lesieli:
The heart is an essential organ that is needed to live- but it also figuratively represents love that can persevere throughout decades of time, change and possible inherited illness(es) . This article reminded me of the movie, “The Notebook”- tale of undying love- through life’s trials and tribulations – one thing still stayed the same- this young man & his feelings about his one true love. The article also tells us that even though certain unfortunate events may occur in each of our lives, we still have the choice to either learn to completely ignore obstacles and move on or to follow your heart and hope for the very best. For the writer, he chose to follow his heart- because sometimes- love has no guidelines and it may be all we have left to believe in.
This article was selected on 1/9/12 by MOW staff from a Los Angeles Times online publication
The original article may be found at: