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.


  1. I would correct you one one thing: you mentioned that Billy had not ever coached much prior to his teach/coach position? I beg to differ! Billy and I coached the Intramural winning Big Purple Women's softball team!

    I have very fond memories of Billy naming the plants in our back yard in Stephenville, and telling meif they were in the wrong location for sun, shade, water, etc. The boy was indeed a Master Nurseryman, as well as one of the best friends anyone could ever have.

    1. Can't believe I forgot about the Big Purple coaching. I think I played one season until he wanted me to play catcher! Hated that! He was a Master of the Nursery, that's for sure.

  2. Thanks for sharing your reflections. Enjoyed learning some new things about Billy (being a nurseryman & a coach, for example). You are a beautiful helpmeet & friend to him! I love how you've honored him in your writing & through your devotion to him. What an example of Christlike love you are!
    Praying for you all!

  3. I thought of Billy the other day when we were thinking about Spring things. We used to always ask his advice about the yard and plantings. He was so very helpful. And he always made me laugh. I'm so sorry for the widening gulf. I cannot think of anything harder. I'm so very thankful you have such a wonderful place for him and the loving support of your family and friends. It doesn't make it any easier, but there is comfort in knowing that so many are loving you both as the journey continues. Praying.

  4. Thanks for sharing your heart and your grief. Living with EOAD is a state of constant grieving...but yes God does give us strength to press on! Geez I so wish we could do coffee sometime. :) Thanks for your comments on my blog also, they were so helpful. We are trying a new med for Curt and hoping to see a specialist soon. We got to speak as a family yesterday before our state legislature about the evils of living with this disease at such a young age. It was good!