13 Years of Saying Good-Bye

Bob and Jeannot's wedding day, Valentine's Day, 1969

When Alzheimer’s takes hold of Jeannot Kensinger’s husband, she watches him slowly vanish one thought at a time.

Editor’s Note: Jeannot Kensinger became a fan, a reader and responder on wowOwow from the first days of its inception. At that time she was a caregiver for her husband, afflicted with dementia/Alzheimer.

In this site she found good friends, many suggestions, as well as much needed support to get her through the days. The caregiving lasted 13 ½ years and the end of that journey came a few weeks ago.

And so, our very special Belgian Jeannot, who always has been best in expressing her feelings in writing, decided to give us a short version of her last years with the love of her life. Married 42 years to her best friend, she has to start a new life alone as she tries to get over the pain of the last decade – or still learn from it.

Hoping to help others in the same situation, she has written an Alzheimer’s blog (click here to visit it) since 2007. We would like to share her final entry with all of you.

I am somewhat like the phoenix coming out of the ashes. Renewal. Survival. Clearing the mind of unpleasant clutter. Cleaning the cupboards. Cleaning out what was not used for years. Getting my office/workroom in order for the jewelry making I love so. Must start next week in all seriousness.

How do I rebound so quickly? I have figured it out.

At the beginning of Bob’s disease, I was in denial yet I knew we were in trouble. I tried to ignore all the things he forgot. Slowly he became my obsession. I got up and the first thought was Alzheimer’s. My last thought at night: He has Alzheimer’s.

Slowly, ever so slowly, he left us as his mental state became reduced to beginning sentences that made no sense. Then fewer words. And then mostly silence unless he became angry … and then he could spout things I never heard him say in 40 years.

Like the clock ticking loudly, you notice things: This is different today and that is different from last week.

The man vanishes, memory fails him; anxiety becomes his companion.

I have good days and bad days.

At least once a day people tell me: Remember it is not your husband anymore. It is the disease. I want to punch the speaker in the face. I want to be violent, I want to scream.

Instead I go inside my head and try for the hundredth time to understand what this really means.

“It’s not your husband.” Well, explain that one to me. He is there in front of me, in the flesh.

I can ponder that statement all day but I can’t wrap my head around it. Just words. I miss my husband so bring him back. All just words from people who do not live with him. Words, words.

For 13 years I miss him more and more every day. He leaves me – one thought at a time. He wants to be hugged and then the next day pushes me away.

I miss him.

There are days when he looks at me with a question mark in his eyes. “Who are you?”

I miss him.

There are days that he hits me because I want to wash him.

He was the forever gentle man. Never in his wildest dreams would he have thought about hitting me.

I miss him, the old one.

Thirteen years of saying good-bye. That is a lot of good-byes.

Then comes March and I break my ankle. I can’t take care of him anymore. I want to, but “they” – the powers at hand – tell me that I need to recuperate. I need to take care of myself. A shock. Take care of me? How do I do that?

I have not given much thought about me but to put food in my body and watch him 24/7 and walk the dog. That is my life.

Wake up and feel to see if he is all right and if he is in bed with me. That is my life. Changing and washing the bedding daily. That is my life. Cooking sometimes three different things so he will eat. That is my life. I then eat what he doesn’t want. I hate waste.

Look in the mirror, fix my hair, wear lipstick? Are you kidding me? I can’t even stand to look at that old woman who has aged 20 years in the last ten. I can’t bear to look at her eyes, they are always so damn sad. When I look into her eyes then I feel the pain more and cry like a bubbling idiot.

And so after my rehab I come home and my husband is not longer there. The bed feels very strange. After 42 years, sleeping alone in a queen-size bed is like being lost at sea. Where is he? I touch the sheets and he is nowhere. I picture him in his new small bed right in the center and I cry.

I want him home.

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