THE HANGING CHRISTMAS TREE – 2011
It was starting to take the whole day now, just getting Alan out of bed, fed and showered, but somehow I always managed to get him in the car and we went for a short drive around – I suppose it was just as much for me, as I was starting to feel increasingly trapped, as if I was sinking into quicksand. Alan always wanted us to go to bed together at the same time so that we could snuggle, I didn’t really mind – I enjoyed it as much as he did, but I was starting to feel increasingly isolated, I never had any down time to myself for reading, going on the computer or anything else; I had no help around the house or with him. You can’t even describe the helplessness of the situation, unless you have stood in those shoes. Napping in the day was impossible, and he always became very agitated during the night, so I was getting hardly any sleep. By this point, it had literally become 24/7 and some days I never even got showered or dressed myself, his needs were becoming all consuming, but I never once considered putting him into a care facility. I was fortunate, I had retired and God was giving me the strength to cope – just. I had promised Alan I would always be with him until the end …….. “till death us do part”
Several times he fell in the house, fortunately, he never broke any bones, and I just about managed to get him up; looking back now I’ve no idea how I found the strength. I guess you do, what you have to do, but increasingly my body was resisting the stress and my health was suffering. I wasn’t on any medication whatsoever myself, and couldn’t even have my customary one glass of red wine with my meal at night – just in case anything happened, I had to have my wits about me completely. In the run up to Christmas 2011, I was getting completely overwhelmed – my heart just wasn’t in the festive spirit; I feared this would be his last and I just wanted to do everything possible to make it as happy as possible. In the past we’d always had a real tree, but I just couldn’t bear the thought of any extra work, I was completely exhausted so I just purchased an artificial one. My friend Jackie volunteered to come and stay with Alan to give me a break, so that I could run some errands. She knew exactly what I was going through, her husband had died the year before, from Frontotemporal Dementia, and she too had nursed him at home. Anyway, by the time I returned home – she had put up the Christmas tree and it was fully decorated, and if you knew her, you would know it was done beautifully, and absolutely gorgeous. You know that anyone who can put up over 300 Christmas trees in her own home and even have one hanging from the ceiling, really has a large heart and a festive spirit!
Christmas Eve Alan & I had always been in the habit of going down to the Botanical Gardens in Largo to see the Christmas lights; then on to Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg to see all the lights along by the water. Anyway, my soul sisters suggested we all go out for the evening, and they would help me with Alan. We had a wonderful time finally sitting outside on Beach Drive eating fish ‘n chips. Jackie even presented me with a Christmas Card “to my dear wife” and she had signed it on behalf of Alan, which brought tears to my eyes.
Christmas Day 2011, some old friends of ours came for lunch, and I also invited our next door neighbor. His wife had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years prior to Alan, but during the meal she was much more agitated than Alan; but it was all low key and we made the best of it.