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A once virile, passionate Italian was now void of all emotion

My name is Lisa. I’m a baby boomer and so was my childhood sweetheart. We met at 15, and dated until we were married in 1966, just turning 20 years old. We were born in August, and chose that month to marry as well. A lot of celebrating for two Leos.

Our life began rather simply. Living and working in San Francisco, but wanting to start a family, we decided to buy a home in the burbs.

We bumped along as a young, married couple with children in those years. We had two daughters, two dogs, and one house.  I got my teaching degree and Richard became a fireman.  Life was anything but quiet. We were both FBI’s (Full-Blooded Italians), and couldn’t speak without using our hands, and were passionate about the things we loved.

It was 1998 and I began to notice that Richard’s scent smelled differently to me than what I was used to. His personality was changing as well. When he retired in late 2000, it was then that I could definitely see and smell that something was wrong with my husband.

His memory was fading; he became directionally dysfunctional, and couldn’t remember any dates or days of the week. We began to seek help, all to no avail. Richard took a mini-mental test and passed. We visited more psychiatrists, who gave him medication for all kinds of mental issues. None hit the target.

More chaos at home was brewing. He became incontinent, and had to be watched closely. I began to have heart problems and would frequent the ER often. I, too, was getting sick, as many caregivers suffer health problems while caring for another. I felt such sadness, that our relationship had changed dramatically. This once virile, good-looking Italian guy, it seemed, was losing ground faster than a landslide.

Our personal physician had Richard take a CT scan, and when the doctor gave us the report, he cried; then I cried.  It showed his brain had shrunk, and white mass was present. He suggested we take a class on Alzheimer’s and see how we felt about it.

We attended the two-hour class with about 15 other patients and their caregivers. Everyone in the room was over 75-years-old. Here we sat, in our 50’s, and Richard was stone-faced, while tears kept streaming down my face. I couldn’t stop the flow. When we left the class, I couldn’t believe this could happen to us. It was like a tsunami hit us. I felt hopeless and helpless. Both of us had strong faith in the Lord, and that was what I clung to as we struggled with daily tasks that were once done without thought.

I hired a caregiver, Amelia, with the help of Family Caregiver Alliance. They came to our aid with open arms and said, “We’re here to help you.” Those words resonated in my heart and soul. What powerful and wonderful words to hear. We also attended Early-Onset Alzheimer’s classes, and met with the caregivers only. A bond formed that continues to this day.

Another explosion would take us to our knees. Our home caught on fire and was considered a total loss. All three of us spent the next three weeks in a hotel. Richard had now lost all memories, face recognitions, and spoke very little. I was forced to place him in a facility that catered to this horrendous disease. Nearly 40 years together, we now had to separate. More sorrow, more misery, and more grief. I visited Richard daily, but he regressed and didn’t respond to me. He was void of all emotions. My heart was broken.

Richard passed away eight months later.  I miss Richard so very much, as do my children and grandchildren. His death left a huge void in our lives. My soul mate is now in God’s hands.

Lisa wrote the book Good Grief Cooking especially for people who are suffering from overwhelming loss or sadness. “By getting involved, and taking care of myself, food became one thing I could control. Every chapter is tossed-in with my own, personally designed recipes. Don’t grieve alone.” Visit her site at:  www.goodgriefcooking.com