Final chapter in Alzheimer’s story

EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Minneota resident Chuck Josephson spent years helping his wife Joan with her Alzheimer’s condition. He eventually wrote for an Arizona newspaper about her condition and how he was dealing with it. He also highlighted Joan’s Alzheimer’s journey in the Minneota Mascot. Joan died last week and her husband Chuck had some final thoughts on the process.

By Chuck Josephson

I find it helpful to try to describe, in terms that are, I hope, not overly sentimental but still realistic just what these last days for Joan have been. I was feeling so alone because it was not sure that there would be anyone with me for these last hours.

I had to write: It’s the clinic’s lobby.

Joan: “Can’t we just go right in to see the doctor?”

Me: “What kind of room is this?”

Joan: “It’s a waiting room.”

Me: “What do you do in a waiting room?”

Joan: “You wait!”

As I passed the time at Joan’s bedside these past few days a recap of this conversation showed that Joan was still ‘with it’ even as her body is giving out.

Yesterday, holding her hand, I asked her, “You know, this is a waiting room. What do you do in a waiting room?” “Wait.”

Although I had done all I could to anticipate these times, I’m finding there was no way to be prepared. Because our immediate family is so far away, I’m finding myself terribly alone as I do my best to keep Joan smiling and comfortable ... while we wait. During the recent years of living with Alzheimer’s I have often remarked that Joan was a different person from the Joan I married.

Now as I look at the present and review the past decades, I think it’s accurate to say that there have been four Joan’s in our lives together. (That’s not to say there was only one of me in that time, but that’s not the point here!)

Joan number one.

She was by my side as we traveled, toured Europe and served together during my military service, then worked at our careers and studied in graduate school.

Our diplomas are framed for display if anyone is interested! They, together with the metal and cardboard boxes of transparencies and photos, represent totally inadequate one-dimensional remembrances of Joan-number-one and me.

Joan number two.

This stage began with the arrival of our children. We became more than a couple; we became a family. Were she to be writing this with me I know she would agree that there must have been some troubles and heartaches during these years, but we don’t remember anything but the good things. Both Joan-number-two and I lived through several career changes. I worked in several jobs in my field of study, Education.

Joan, seeming always to live several lives at the same time, combined motherhood, her teaching career, her musical talents, leadership among women’s groups, and helping in the family business activity.

The singular characteristic during these years — as was true of the other years as well — was the love she showed to anyone she was with, and that love was returned many-fold. Numbers one and two were predictable.

Joan number three.

Not so Joan-number-three. Marked by the emergence of Alzheimer’s in our lives. (People ask when this started. My response is that I’m not sure, but there did come a time when it clearly had arrived.)

The gradual disappearance of ‘one’ and ‘two’ required a lot of getting used to.

Still, it became apparent that Joan was no longer the woman I married, the lady the world had come to know.

It could have been anticipated that this wonderful person, now just as kind and considerate as she had always been, was still a splendid person even as changes progressed.

As we accepted together the gradual progression into each stage of the disease, there were still moments of tenderness, enjoyment, even fun!

Joan number four.

A person has to have known intimately the other three ‘Joans’ in order to see how, even in these final days, the days of Joan-number-four.

She retained her capacity to show the love that has been within her all these years. Her smile and her whispered, “I love you” make even this last Joan just as much unique and very special, still the person she has always been.

Joan Josephson

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