The perfect Valentine’s gift

These last few months have been very intense. John’s cancer diagnosis last month was just the icing on the cake. Before the holidays, I was already looking at different care homes and only put that on hold because if John was late stage or terminal I didn’t think I should place him.

Luckily, the surgery a few weeks ago was curative. However the anesthesia used really set him back. They told me that it would affect him in that way, but I had no idea how much he would lose. For a few days he could not take a pill because he didn’t remember how to swallow it. I thought we had moved past that stage and were getting back to normal. Or at least what is normal for us.

This morning proved me wrong. While I was STRUGGLING to have John put on clean underwear, he gave me the finger. Last night after we stopped at my mother’s to see how she was doing, he refused to get in the car. My brother had to drive it to my house while we walked home. After I put us to bed last night at 8pm, he continued to get up and pull the blankets off the bed, dump the toilet paper roll in the toilet, crumple up the throw rugs, until I shouted, “OK you win!” I got up and left the room. When I returned a couple of hours later he was peacefully asleep.

I haven’t slept through the night for about three months. I’m ready to place him. Don’t get me wrong my heart is heavy, but after tomorrow when I see him I can visit without the stress of caregiving. It has been six years. We fought the good fight, but Alzheimer’s is a very powerful foe. We have yet to find the magic bullet to defeat the relentless ravaging this disease has on the unique essence of “self.”

A couple of years ago I wrote about a trip we took down the Chattahoochee River using inner tubes. Concerned that I would lose John, I connected our tubes using a quick release tether. Nearly three hours in, John and I got stuck at a small waterfall, each of us on opposite sides of a fairly large rock. The current was strong, so no matter how much we pushed or pulled we could not get back on the same side, and if one of us got out of our tube the other would “shoot the hooch” solo dragging an empty inner tube.

I told John the best thing to do was to detach and meet down river. He nodded agreement. I told him not to be afraid and disconnected us. He went over in a flash. My journey took a bit longer, I had to fight my way to the bank and drag my tube through shallow water to reach him.

Our journey with Alzheimer’s is like that trip. Together we have navigated doctor’s appointments, tests and treatments unsure about what was ahead. Now his disease has progressed to the point that I realize I can’t continue with him. I have to let go.

Early on I promised John that he would live with me until he no longer remembered who I was. The other day he asked me, “Where’s Angie?” Although I reassured him who I was he didn’t believe me. I finally understood, this is when the professionals have to take over.

It is ironic that he is giving me my life back on Valentine’s Day.