In reading Jan's Story I discovered it is really BARRY'S STORY of how he copes with his wife Jan's Early Onset Alzheimer's. Jan becomes angry, confused and has friends who aren't there. She hardly recognizes Barry at the end of the story while Barry becomes lonely and overburdened with her care.
What did I as a caregiver learn from this caregiver/correspondent? Barry chronicles the stages of Alzheimer's as Jan goes through them. He writes to family and friends in the summer of 2007:
I am taken aback at how fast Jan's short term memory seemed to evaporate . . . it robs us of sharing daily experiences, and robs her of savoring the good things that are a part of all of our daily lives . . . I am losing more than a friend . . . also slipping away is the one person who was my confidante, with whom I could and did share everything. I feel like I'm trapped in a movie, watching it unfold and already know the ending . . . but with no way to rewind back to the good parts. (pp. 53, 54)I can identify. I noticed that when my husband prayed before we went to sleep last night that he did not pray in specifics, but he did thank the Lord for the good day we had yesterday and the good day we would have tomorrow. But the Lord is the third party in our marriage and He takes us through each day. My husband's daily humor and my daily Scripture reading such as Psalm 23 takes me through the day.
Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me . . .
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
So much is familiar in Jan and Barry's story--having to order for my husband in restaurants, his misplacing things, his compensating for memory loss, sundowner's problems. Barry talked about Jan's coping experiences--ANGER, PRETENDING, SILENCE. But my husband hasn't deteriorated as much as Jan has by the end of the book.
While I respect Mr. Petersen and his riveting journey as a caregiver, his values do not represent my Christian values. I did not see Mr. Petersen looking to the Lord for strength and guidance in his caregiver's story. He brings a third party (not the Lord), a new woman into the story for his loneliness. Barry seemed to find people to support his new woman while his wife is in assisted living. Even Jan's mother suggested Barry needed a side romance!
I am a caregiver who takes a different path. I have a different view of fidelity and an awesome God who is with me in this journey. Life doesn't owe me a husband. I married for the first time when I was 40 and when that husband died I was a widow for eight years. I love being married to my husband and we have so much joy in our marriage. Life doesn't guarantee a husband not get Alzheimer's. But I do have this chance to be faithful to my husband and be the best wife I can be while the Lord takes me through this.
One of my colleagues in Toastmasters cared for his wife for twenty years--so inspiring. He was the gentleman who recommended the book that I reviewed here, No Act of Love Is Ever Wasted. Mr. Petersen and I run in different circles, and I sure wish he had waited and found the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When I got to the end of the book, I realized a blogger I follow had actually reviewed this book and had seen Petersen interviewed one Sunday morning. Barry's new lady is mentioned in this blog. See Early On-Set Blog Spot in January of this year which I did read. Here is how I responded:
I married for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, until death us do part.
Then the blogger herself responded with:
I found a Huffington Post article by Barry Petersen where he talks about guilt as he does in the book. SeeIn his heart your husband knows he is lucky in love.
Can a Marriage Die When the Wife is Alive. Here Peterson writes:
I have no answers for others, offering only what I have done and learned and chosen, knowing that it was right -- for me. I wish them luck. Like me, they will need it.There is more than luck, Mr. Petersen. And there is God's help, grace and forgiveness for you.
The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe. Proverbs 18:10