I have always been a sentimental type, preserving old photographs, researching family history, keeping cards and letters which I found meaningful, and labeling items from generations past for generations future. Quite indifferent, our children have not shared the same interest in my cache of artifacts and my passion for tales of long past relatives. Such things will vanish along with me. But our story reflects a strange and unique twist of events resulting from my love of reminiscence and most likely from my finally fulfilled wish to take what I call our “journey home.”
My wife, Elizabeth, was a nurse for over 40 years, caring for dying and suffering patients with unending compassion and love. She never met a stranger. We purchased a huge Queen Anne Victorian home where we raised our two children. The hidden stairways, endless corners and rooms, pocket doors, and multiple creaks and groans made for a wonderful childhood of adventurous hideaways, ghost stories, and family get togethers. Our home was always the site of Thanksgiving and Christmas family gatherings. We loved the house, and the house loved us. The laughter and voices of our parents and children can still be heard throughout the stillness of those presently empty rooms and halls.
For reasons only explainable by youth and/or middle age foolishness, we sold our beloved house and built a new home away from the city when our children began their own adult lives. It was a terrible mistake and a decision endlessly regretted. Through no fault of the new home, of course, we entered a period of loss of parents, cancer and heart disease crises, the death of a wonderful son-in-law, the moving away of friends, and ultimately the horrific advent of my wife’s diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s dementia. The greatest struggle and challenge of our life together began when the hospital where she had worked for nearly 40 years had to let her go. I had survived cancer and two heart attacks, but nothing prepared me for what would lie ahead for my wife and the mother of our children.
It has been almost seven years since the diagnosis, and Betty (the name she prefers) can no longer speak, walk, or care for herself in any way. I care for her at home with assistance 30 hours/week. At almost six hundred dollars out of pocket each week for her care, our resources are stretched. She never enjoyed one cent of her retirement savings nor had the opportunity to do the simple things she had planned. My heart breaks everyday as I care for her, and she will remain at my side so long as God gives me strength.
We sold our “new” home and moved back to town, and that is where our story begins and ends. Our beloved Queen Anne Victorian home went on the market. With abandon and obvious foolishness, I bought it back. It is in desperate need of attention, and I am preparing it for our return. The marks and dates on the woodwork made as our children grew are clearly there after nearly 30 years. I still can feel the joy we experienced there. Betty and I will go back home. Somehow I am confident that she will feel the presence of our former home, the memories of our life together there, and we will complete our journey home.
The rest is in God’s hands.