Who I Am
I moved around a lot as a child but we kept returning to the same town in New Jersey. My parents knew that provided me with some sense of stability in my changing world. I attended college at the University of Delaware, and graduated with a Medical Technology degree. I loved biology but knew I couldn't afford the time commitment or money to be a doctor. My profession gave me a lot of flexibility in what area I chose and where I could find a job. I fell in love with microbiology because it wasn't as "cook book" as some of the other areas. It presented a sense of mystery and you had to use your skills to identify the bacteria or molds we encountered. It was very visual, and I loved that. I worked in a Rochester hospital for 35 years.
My Partner In Life
I married my high school sweetheart. We had a wonderful life in our 20's and 30's, raising one son. Entering the "sandwich generation" in our 40's, there were a number of things that disrupted our life together. Alzheimer's showed it's head in my father-in-law, and eventually in my mother-in-law. At the same time we were dealing with the death of my dad from post-polio syndrome, and the death of my mom from breast cancer. While all that was running it's course, Jim (my husband) began showing signs of memory loss.
Life was not all gloom and doom, however. We had many happy years together being physical in many different ways: camping, boating, water skiing, wind surfing, and scuba diving. I also was a craft person who sewed, quilted, made straw baskets, cross-stitched, and gardened. We had the fullest life that was possible for us and I have many happy memories to look back on.
Finding Hope & New Beginnings
I will tell you about my experience and feelings and maybe that will help you on your journey. Living alone after Jim died was a new experience for me. I went from living at home to college, to marrying Jim. There was no time in between to see who I was as a "stand alone" person. I was lost at 63 years old. I had to experience and deal with my grief before I could begin to see where I was headed and what was important to me. I did realize fairly quickly that I wanted to pass on the knowledge I had gained in dementia caregiving so others would not have to start at the beginning as I had done. Nineteen years gave me insight and a lot of tidbits to pass on. That led to co-authoring the book, and becoming a facilitator for support groups for the Alzheimer's Association!
Me...and my sister
4 and 6 1/2 years old
Our mom said that I was a pretty transparent child. I wasn't sneaky, so she could tell what was coming next! I had a lot of fears as a young child and a fair number of nightmares that plagued me.
We lived in a rural new neighborhood that provided lots of woods, a playground up the street, and a country store stocked with candy and popsicles. What more could a child want?
Starting Life Together
We married before our last year in college.
I really never worried much about our life as a newly married couple. We were in love, and took life pretty much as it came. I had a medical technology degree and loved my work, and Jim was a school psychologist for BOCES #1, and later went back to school for a social work degree so he was qualified to do family therapy. Life was good...but do we really know it at the time?
My photo taken for the book jacket.
It is true that the older you are, the more confident you are. I'm not as worried as I used to be about what others think of me, and can share my thoughts with others much more easily. If you have a group of friends you love, you aren't worried about losing them at this stage in life. I think that is why it was so easy for me to share all the things I did in the book. I wanted caregivers to know what my emotions were, right or wrong. I wanted to let them know that it is O.K. to feel what I did, and that it is natural given the circumstances. Not many books do that, especially about dementia caregiving.