Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Spring has arrived in Texas, and it reminds me of so many things Billy did in the past during the spring. Billy was a nurseryman for many years, and he loved sharing what he knew about plants with friends and customers. His job with a retail nursery (Wolfe Nursery) took us to west Texas where we ended up staying for 20 years - first to Lubbock and then to Midland. I remember when he told me he was being transferred to Lubbock, and I said, "At least it's not Midland or Odessa!" God has such a great way of taking care of what we need, and he knew we needed to be with some of the best folks in the world - West Texans. I can't say that our time in Lubbock was our best, but in retrospect, it had a great deal to do with where we were in our lives. When we found out we were being transferred, we had a newborn preemie son, Andrew, and a three year old Shelley.  We moved to Lubbock on Labor Day of 1986 which was the actual due date for Andrew who was already six weeks old by that time. I'm sure I was suffering from postpartum depression, but at that time, we just forged on through those times.  Almost two years later, we were transferred to Midland where we would remain for the next 18 years. What a blessing that was! Some of our dearest friends are from Midland. Our spiritual lives developed a tremendous amount through relationships we had in Midland, and we raised our kids in Midland.  I could write many more posts about our time in Midland, but I started down this path because of Spring.

Spring was incredibly busy in the nursery business, and Billy spent many hours at work during those days. He could never take off during my Spring Break from school because no one took vacation in the Spring.  He was lucky if he got a day off. When he did have a free moment, he would work on a project at home.  He loved making things for our yard - a pergola, an arbor, a water fall.  He also loved planting up flower beds at church. He would work for hours and hours into the night on planting, so that the beds at church would look nice for Easter Sunday or some other special event. When he started teaching he was busy with sports in the spring - at first coaching them and later on attending games of his students. I used to say that Billy had to coach to support his teaching habit where many coaches teach, so they can coach. He took a job teaching middle school social studies and agreed to coach because that was the position - teacher/coach. He coached seventh grade girls' athletics, and he he had never coached anything except pee wee football for the YMCA. He did an adequate job coaching, and he did an excellent job making seventh grade girls feel important and special. One of his former students that he coached and taught sent me an email recently. She told me about some specific things he did that made her feel successful and needed by the team. When he no longer coached and moved on to teach high school, he would attend baseball and softball games of his students unless he was teaching night school. Billy was never afraid of work. More than once in our marriage he had three jobs - one full time and two part time jobs. Whatever it took to make ends meet, he was willing to do. When he quit working at the Wolfe, so he could attend college full time to complete his teaching degree, he took as many as 21 college hours and worked at a local nursery for 15-20 hours a week. He didn't sleep much, and if he ever got still, he dropped off.  One night during our Care Group from church, one of the guys was praying, and all of a sudden, we heard Billy snore. I learned to sit beside him, so I could hold his hand and squeeze it if he started dozing. Another time, we were at the Futrells on a Friday night to watch a movie together. The movie had hardly started before Billy was snoring on the couch. Kathy got a blanket and covered him, and the rest of us enjoyed the movie and carried on as normal.  With little sleep, tons of reading and papers to write, Billy maintained a 4.0 in his college work. He was smarter than I ever thought about being. He read voraciously and remembered whatever he read. He was a fabulous writer, and one of his professors gave him an A+ on one of his papers, noting that he NEVER gave anyone an A+.

As spring arrives, I look at my yard, and I miss Billy even more.  I miss his vision, his knowledge, his company. I still see Billy every day, but I miss him so much. Emotionally and behaviorally, Billy is better. His sundowning is not as extreme, and he has many more "good" hours during a day than he has "bad." Cognitively, he's much worse. I was talking with his afternoon nurse and the psychiatric physician's assistant this afternoon, and we all see the same things. He makes sentences that we can mostly understand in the mornings, but by afternoon, he cannot finish sentences, and he struggles to tell us anything. I asked him recently if he remembered when we met. He didn't. How long we have been married? He guessed 15 years. It will be 31 in June. A friend asked him recently how old he is, and he said 41?  Billy has always had some nervous energy, but he becomes so anxious at times that he just trembles all over. He's developed a tremor in his hands, and while he can still feed himself, he struggles to cut up meat. When I offer to help him, he always lets me do it. On Saturday I took him to see some of his friends at the Cottage. The nurse had called me last week to see how he was doing, and I told her I would bring him by. He remembered the faces, but I don't think he remembered a whole lot about all of his time there. He did remember where the restroom was at the Cottage, and he usually has to be led to the restroom at Lexington Place.  For the most part, Billy is happy. He tells us that he likes it there. He says it's a nice place, and the people are really nice. He is treated well, and as is usually the case with Billy, he's well-liked. He has moments where he doesn't want to comply.  He's not fond of being showered by them. One of the CNAs was trying to get him to undress for his shower one night, and he said, "I have a wife, you know!" When those things happen, they enlist my help the next evening, and we get him showered.

The best thing that happens everyday is that Billy lights up when he sees me. He is thrilled when I get there. He's also good about me leaving each evening. He walks me to the door, asks me when I'll be back, and gives me a kiss goodbye.  I'm delighted, and my heart is broken at the same time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


We received a great report from the oncologist today! Mom had two tumors in her abdomen (ovarian cancer but Mom had a total hysterectomy two years ago - another story for another day) when she began chemo treatments. The larger tumor was about 6cm in diameter. The scan from Monday showed that this tumor has now shrunk to 1cm. The other is gone! Praise God! She has two more rounds of chemo, and the doctor feels that will take care of what is left of this tumor. She has no new tumors, and we are thrilled. Chemo is getting rough as it does, but Mom is a tough lady. She's a prim, proper, gentle lady, but she is tough on the inside. She's my model for strength. 

My dad will see the neurologist tomorrow, and I'm anxious to hear about that visit. I wish I could attend all of their appointments, but it's just not possible. Please keep them in your prayers as you have.  We appreciate them and love you for caring. 

I sat with Billy while he ate his dinner tonight, and he looked around the dining room and said, "I like this place." 

Sweet dreams!

Monday, March 5, 2012


The past week has been an emotional roller coaster for me. I've laughed a lot more than I've cried, but the tears have come readily, too. Billy is adjusting very well to his new place, and he is usually calm and happy.  He is always happy to see me, and he makes me feel so special every time I walk through the door of the place. He announces frequently that I am his wife, as though any of the workers haven't heard. He's also okay when I need to leave; he just needs to know when I'm coming back. 

He makes me laugh often - unintentionally - but he laughs with me. Everyday he tells me he's been really busy. He's told Shelley and me of many adventures he's had during the day....one day they were chasing and catching armadillos, and he asked me if I knew that their legs are only so big (holding up his thumb and forefinger to show me how long the average armadillo leg is). One day, he told me about the swimming meet they had, and how he had participated and did pretty well. Last week, we were visiting in the dining area of the unit, and Nelda, one of the residents came over to him and took his hand. She likes to hug him and kiss him on the cheek. She's probably between 75 and 80, and Billy held her hand, looked at me, and said, "This is my wife," indicating that Nelda is his wife. I said, "Oh, I thought I was your wife." Without missing a beat, he said, "I have two."  Tonight we were walking from the main dining room to the unit and took a shortcut through the courtyard. One of the CNAs was taking a smoke break, and Billy looked at her and said, "Can I have a joint, too?" Last night, a new man was at the table with us, and he didn't speak at all. He already sits with Bobby who says nothing after his initial greeting, and Billy felt the need to fill the sound space with comments. Most of what he said made no sense, but at one point, he looked at the new guy and said, "When I walked in here tonight this little dog came up and whizzed on my leg." I never know what he will say, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't know either. 

I'm amazed at how quickly he's losing skills. I notice it when he's eating. He gets confused on which utensil to use...a fork for soup, a spoon for a roll. He insists on using utensils when eating a sandwich. Tonight he was using a spoon to drink his Dr. Pepper. I took him to dinner on Friday night with Shelley and Andrew, and he starting eating the butter out of the container with his fork. The good news, though...he can feed himself. His hands tremble like a much older man, and I'm not certain if it's caused by the disease or his medication. He continues to have some anxiety during the day, and it's to the point that he has to have additional medication for that. The amount of time that he is anxious is greatly decreased from what it was, though. So far, he does well in church and acts appropriately. Karen, my friend whose husband is in assisted living and on hospice, told me she knew it was time to stop taking her husband to church when he started taking off his shirt during the service. 

Another friend of mine named Karen also, is a friend through shared experience. She lives on Long Island, and we met through Wellsphere and stay in touch via email, blogging, and Facebook. Her husband was 36 when he was diagnosed with Young Onset AD, and he passed last Tuesday. He is now among those who have become whole and healthy again in Heaven. I'm so sad for Karen and her children who miss Mike's earthly presence but who also know he now lives in a happier state. That knowledge makes it easier to bear, but it doesn't diminish the pain. So many are suffering from this disease, and it's not just people in their 60s, 70s, or 80s which, by the way, doesn't make it easier.  NO AGE should suffer through this disease, and no child should see her parent become a child.  

I am always uplifted during praise but emotional also. I love our worship service on Saturday evening, and so many songs have deep meaning to me after the losses our family has experienced the last five years. I miss my grandmother who was so wise, my mother-in-law who was strong and vibrant before Alzheimer's struck, my brother who lost his battle with colon cancer much too young, our son who lost his life through addiction to alcohol and drugs, and I miss each part of Billy that has disappeared. I cannot hold back the tears when we sing "Hold Me Now" by Hillsong...  

And sometimes, when the tears start, they don't stop for a while. I'm better now about allowing myself that time to grieve. A little of it is healthy, but I don't allow myself to stay there for long. God has entrusted me to be Billy's wife and caregiver. I am honored to do that, and I have to stay strong to do it. 

During the stress of major life events, I tend to compartmentalize my challenges. One of the challenges our family has faced the last several months is my mom's cancer. I wrote about it for a while, and I shared that my dad struggles with dementia. It became too difficult for me to write about, so I didn't. I do want to share that mom has completed six of eight chemo treatments, and her last scan showed that the tumors in her abdomen are shrinking. I will go with my parents to the oncologist this Wednesday morning to get the results of the scan my mom had today. Please pray with me for those tumors to be gone. Chemo has taken a toll on my mom and dad, but Mom has certainly been a trouper through it all.  What a blessing it would be if she were free from those tumors and no more chemo or surgery would be needed. God is bigger than cancer, and He can do it. My dad will go to the neurologist again this week, and I pray for intervention there as well. So many prayer warriors read this blog, and I ask you to pray for my parents. 

All is well for me. Spring Break is on the horizon, and my sister and I will be taking a trip together. I know Billy will be fine without me, but I will miss seeing him those few days, even though I need a break. Someone asked me today if I get lonely. I honestly don't have time to be lonely. I get home around 7 or 7:30, and the evening goes too quickly. God is always good, and I am at peace. 

Peace and love to all.