Monterey man shares that caregiving is his God-given vocation
In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, we are highlighting Steve, whose wife Cathy is living with Alzheimer’s. Steve and Cathy had the honor of sharing their story during this year’s Promise Garden ceremony at the Monterey Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Steve shares how he found his new vocation in caring for his wife.
My dear wife Cathy has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia. I can’t tell you exactly when I realized that something was happening, but it was probably years before the official diagnosis by her neurologist.
Cathy and I met in 1997. A year earlier I had moved to Pacific Grove for a new job. I had recently gone through a divorce, and I was truly not looking for a new relationship. I hadn’t been dating in 25 years, and the ‘dating’ world seemed to have changed a lot since then.
After being in Pacific Grove for a little while, it was time for a routine physical/medical check-up. I made an appointment at a new doctor’s office. While sitting in the waiting room, this tall, slender, nicely dressed, beautiful woman, with no ring on her finger, walked through the front door. I said to myself, “Wow!”
Since the waiting room was full of patients, this woman ended up sitting next to me. We struck up a conversation where I learned where she worked, but not her name. It was at that moment that they called me in to see the doctor. “What!? Not now!” I thought to myself.
I am a shy guy and not forward at all, but I asked for her name and told her mine. I had never done anything like that in my life. Since I now knew where Cathy worked, the next day I called her office and asked her out to dinner.
Cathy said emphatically “No.”
I didn’t know what to do next. Then she calmly said, “How about lunch?”
Our first date was on July 4, 1997. It was very special, and I knew then that this was the woman I would love to marry.
We have been married for over 22 years now. Cathy doesn’t drive anymore; she is not able to cook or wash the clothes. She cannot do most of the daily tasks of making a household run smoothly. Her Alzheimer’s is progressing, and her memory is diminishing.
I am proud to say that Cathy is a warrior. She always tries to do the best she can. But most of the time, remembering what she was planning to do just doesn’t stick in her memory.
I didn’t know it at the time, but after Cathy’s diagnosis, I realized I had found the vocation I had been looking for my whole life, being Cathy’s caregiver. This new role was to be the best companion, friend and caregiver that I could ever be for my wife.
We have learned to take each day one day at a time and prepare for whatever happens. I hold Cathy’s hand wherever we go so that she feels safe and it’s my way to show her that I love her. I am so grateful to have Cathy in my life and it warms my heart when she tells me she loves me.
I’ve received a lot of help from the Alzheimer’s Association® and their support groups. We also participated in Walk to End Alzheimer’s.® Our hope is that our participation will encourage others to help us find a cure for this disease.
Cathy can’t remember much about her past but every now and then she totally surprises me with what she’ll say or remember. I try to do the very best job I can, but I admit that at times it can be trying and exhausting. Especially as her disease progresses.
I answer her many questions throughout the day. Sometimes it’s the same question she asked barely a minute before. I cook the meals, take care of our household needs—pay the bills, shop for food and coordinate schedules. It can be trying.
Luckily, Cathy, like the real trooper that she is, is always willing to help. I still try my best to find ways that she can participate. I want her to see that I appreciate her effort to help by being as tender and loving of a husband, companion, friend and caregiver as absolutely possible.
Her family does not live nearby but we stay connected with them through Zoom. Her son, daughter and Cathy’s three grandkids keep in touch best they can. While I may end up doing most of the talking, Cathy really enjoys that time. As the disease has progressed, I’ve become her memory.
Cathy is beautiful on the inside and outside; she is a saint. I love her and always will and will care for her for as long as I possibly can.
Join us in honoring the millions of family members and friends serving as Alzheimer’s caregivers. Leave your tribute at alz.org/honor.