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Chuck Hinman: IJMA. Have I Ever Been Jealous Over My Wife?

Chuck tells of Connie's ignoring him when he is not in his usual place at church service. Her Alzheimer's creates the greatest moment of separation in their fifty year marriage.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column -Red Buhrmann, My College Roommate

By Chuck Hinman

Have I Ever Been Jealous Over My Wife?

It would seem when you hear my surprising answer -- "Yes, and with a mind-boggling consuming jealousy you can't comprehend!" -- you would probably relate it to a likely incident in the early years of our marriage. WRONG! You would never dream that it happened when we were nearly 80 years old, and had completed near 50 years of 'one flesh' marriage consummated by our wedding vows so long ago.

Connie still attends church though ravaged by Alzheimer's

After being members of New Harmony Baptist Church in rural Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for over 45 years, I moved our membership to Eastern Heights Baptist Church in 2000. I say 'I' because Connie was in the late stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Eastern Heights was just a few blocks from our house, practically in our front yard. We had many friends in that church and we enjoyed going to both Sunday School and Church services.

Connie's cognitive function was 100% destroyed so that she couldn't speak, nor did she understand spoken words. In spite of her many problems, she looked like a million dollars and I dressed her and groomed her to the hilt. Everyone knew and loved Connie! People who didn't know this classy lady would never know of her dreadful walk with AD. She masked it with her sweet personality.

Connie usually falls asleep as preaching started

It wasn't uncommon for her to fall asleep shortly after Brother Monty started preaching. Normally she would lay her head on my right shoulder before she fell asleep. I was so in love with that gal, my soul-mate of nearly 50 years, the mother of our grown children, that I felt totally at ease with her catching a few winks, her head on my shoulder, drooling if she liked, while Brother Monty preached on.

But on this particular morning, our seating order had gotten skewed for some reason before the service started and I was on her right side. Some other man, I don't remember who, sat on her left side where I normally sat. I'm sure, at the time, I knew his identity.

Connie turns to 'stranger' and ignores Chuck

In Connie's confused state of Alzheimer's Disease, she couldn't sort-out this seeming small change in routine. She never looked at me or gave me the time of day. She couldn't! Her mind was tangled with the webs commonly associated with this dreadful disease. I hated Alzheimer's Disease! It had robbed us of so much happiness and it just kept robbing us! It was relentless.

No matter what I did to try to make her aware of my presence beside her, and distract her from this 'stranger' she kept inquisitively observing him. She never spoke, she just looked him over from head to toe for the longest time. It was embarrassing! I think he was uncomfortable. I kept trying to rouse her to acknowledge my presence. I was holding and squeezing her hand as I always did in church. I put my left arm around her trying to force her to turn toward me. She would have nothing to do with my advances. I spoke softly to her, gently shaking her shoulders but frantically trying to get her attention!

Chuck recognizes the problem: he is out of place

I knew how devastated she must be in her confused state! She was like a child lost from her parents in the mall and I knew of the confusion and fear going through her mind. That motivated me to hurry my efforts to make her aware of me!

I eventually recognized the problem. I was not in the right location! I wasn't where her tangled mind had mechanically been used to me being. I didn't want to ask this other man to exchange places with me. He wouldn't have understood.

Connie falls asleep on stranger's shoulder

Finally, Connie, tiring of her confusion, gradually gave in to the hopelessness of the situation. She put her head on this man's shoulder and immediately fell asleep, drooling copiously on the lapel of his jacket as she normally did on mine!

I knew that everyone sitting nearby, including the man sitting next to her was caught up in the drama of this curious situation! I was devastated, hopelessly and embarrassingly without a remedy! To say I was eaten up with jealousy was a gross understatement and at the same time a misstatement. I wanted to bawl my eyes out! I knew my precious sweetie fell asleep thinking that I, whoever I represented in her twisted mind had totally abandoned her. I shuddered in abhorrence at my helplessness to overcome this predicament!

A moment of most separation in fifty years

Neither of us in our 'one flesh' union created at our marriage nearly 50 years before could handle it! We were at that moment more separated from each other than we had ever been, even though I was seated right beside her, where I had been all our lives!

Mercifully, the church service ended. Connie roused from her sleep. I helped her to her feet with the aid of the man on whose shoulder she had slept and drooled. Sympathetic friends throughout the church came in droves to console, befriend and encourage us as they always had. Connie once again seemed to accept my 'being' as we departed from the church and headed for Luby's for dinner.

Chuck lives with Alzheimer's, caring for Connie

I loathe AD for how it degrades its victims but I found that you can live with it if you try. We did!

Yes, I have been jealous and I am not ashamed of it.... damned Alzheimer's Disease -- I HATE YOU!!!!

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray.
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you, please don't take my sunshine away."
da da da, da da ,......dadada...........

Written by Chuck Hinman, Friends of the Library Writing Contest. 10 February 2004

Chuck later revised this as: Living with AD (Alzheimer's Disease), a shorter version. Tuesday, 17 November 2009. Editorial Note: In the version above I have added a few phrases from the later version into the original version. - RHS

This story was posted on 2014-09-07 07:16:16
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