Often when my readers meet me, they say, “I feel like I know you.” And I usually say, “You do.”

You see, I write from my heart. I don’t see the point in communicating through my writing unless I’m digging from deep inside.

So this month, I said to myself, “How is it possible I commonly don’t share what’s most important in my life?”

My husband, Bob, has been diagnosed with a form of frontotemporal dementia. He can’t find words, such as kitchen, apple, pen, or bread. He has trouble spelling, reading, writing, and making phone calls.

How sad that he can no longer read my columns, which he’s been reviewing for 23 years, since my first column ran on Sept. 1, 1997. So I read them to him. He loves this column. He feels better when he doesn’t try to keep his disease a secret.

Actually, I read everything to him, including menus. In fact, this picture was taken a few months ago on a special day, sitting outdoors at a restaurant. “Special” days are any days we’re together.

Heaven forbid I forget to add that although many of my thoughts begin with the words, “He can no longer …,” there are a greater number of thoughts that begin with, “He can still ...”

In this past month, he’s astounded me with progress; he has actually accepted his brain dysfunction. A huge step.

Prior to this month, whenever he’d stop talking because he couldn’t come up with the next word, he’d go back to square one: “I hate this!” It was as if he thought it could go away.

Now, whenever he’s speechless, he just shrugs his shoulders and says, “Can’t come up with it,” and then resumes whatever he’s in the middle of doing.

We often have intimate, sweet talks in the middle of the night while holding hands in the darkness of the bedroom. I say, “We both have impairments, sweetheart. (I have a spinal cord injury.) Everyone has something. Now we have to find ways to work around them. We have to be grateful for all that we have rather than focus on what we don’t.”

Every night before sleep, Bob says his prayers.

“What do you pray about?” I’ve asked many times.

His answer is always the same. “I pray for my dog, my cats, and you.” (Notice who comes first.) “I ask, ‘Someone,’ please keep them safe. Please keep them happy. Please help me find the way to be a better dad, a better husband, a better friend. Don’t let anyone get hurt because of me.’”

As steadily as his relentless brain disease is progressing, his love for me stays the same. He has never missed a word of “I love you.” He never forgets to help me get up a step.

His love is quite everlasting. Nothing, not even forgetting my name, will ever change that.

I stand back and watch him bravely struggling. Bob is my hero.

Although he doesn’t know any of our friends’ names, much less our dog’s name, he knows something way more important: In a battle between love and dementia, and in all battles, love, truly and infinitely, conquers all.


Award-winning nationally syndicated columnist Saralee Perel can be reached at sperel@saraleeperel.com or via her website: saraleeperel.com

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