Smile for Me

KAllen
3 min readJun 28, 2023

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My husband and best friend fades away

Photo by Jiroe (Matia Rengel) on Unsplash

My husband and I met in 2014 and have been together for almost nine years. I moved in with him in 2015 and he kept asking if we were going to get married. I was ambivalent about it. The Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage was great news, and it was nice for some friends who went for the whole matrimony thing, but it wasn’t for me.

After prodding from him on a somewhat regular basis, we were married by the local Justice of the Peace in August of 2018. No one but him and I and the justice. He was happy and admittedly so was I. He smiled at me with that impish look he had and I laughed.

And out of the blue it hit me today. He doesn’t smile any more. He hasn’t laughed in months. After all this time, I just now noticed today. That he doesn’t smile. And hasn’t for quite some time.

When we first met, he was always so energetic, gregarious and funny. It was one of the things about him I found so endearing and attractive. Everywhere we went he would often strike up conversations with strangers. Taking the moment to do his “spiel” as I called it making whomever he interacted with smile and laugh as he joked around.

I’ll never forget how one day not long after we met, when we were at the grocery store, there was a woman working at the checkout. She looked sad, miserable, upset, and depressed. All rolled into one as she stood arms crossed staring out the glass windows at the front of the store. I approached her checkout first and began to unload the cart onto the counter. As the beep, beep, beep sounded for each item she scanned he came up and started his usual banter of corny openings he would use as conversation starters. Her initial response was just to look at him like “is this guy for real?” Like always, he persisted and before I knew it, he finally broke through. She threw a couple verbal jabs back at him and in no time she was smiling and laughing and engaged in a way that would have seemed impossible a few minutes before. We finished checking out she said, “I needed that today”. That was seven years ago.

In May of 2022, after eleven days in the hospital and every test imaginable, “It’s early onset of dementia” the doctors said. He’s only in his mid 50’s. It started during the pandemic when he developed slurred speech, difficulty with his coordination, and bedwetting. We were both stunned by the dementia diagnosis and I learned as much about it as I could.

We’d deal with it, I could handle it I told myself. And he was still relatively healthy and of sound mind. We hoped and prayed that this mild onset would continue and we’d have years more time. Only six months ago he could still walk, get up and down the stairs, fix his own breakfast, take a shower, and get dressed. His speech tended to get worse at times but then bounce back somewhat.

Now he can’t speak at all, the words are in his head but can’t make it past his lips. He has difficulty swallowing, wears adult diapers, and can’t do anything for himself. I look after and take care of him 24/7 along with working from home. Some days are good, some days are bad, and some days are just unbearable. There are times lately where he looks at me but it’s as if he’s seeing right through me. He’s looking at something else, something I can’t see. I’m exhausted, overwhelmed, emotionally and physically drained. But I’ll do whatever I can for as long as I can.

It breaks my heart to see him like this and I grieve. And I cry. Our days are no longer ours. The future, our plans are all gone. We’ll never retire or travel or spend relaxing days being happy and content together. I’ll never see him do his “spiel” again and laugh at his corny jokes. I smile at him sometimes when I think about it. But he doesn’t smile.

Don’t go it alone, if you or someone you know is a caregiver for someone with dementia https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving

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KAllen

Former slave to corporate America and unapologetic liberal in the midst of Pennsyltucky