By Imelda Gilmore
There weren’t any elaborate productions … no setting the scene … no hidden treasure hunts … no candles spelling out the words. It was just the end of a lazy day spent at her family home.
“Will you marry me?”
A dreamy, shy smile, “Yes.”
It would be their secret: after all, he was only 19, she 18.
The months stretched into a couple of years, all the while growing in awareness of each other’s goodness, appreciating the discovery of gifts, enjoying The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Gene Pitney, the beach, her little VW bug, growing in love.
This was the day! They walked into the little jeweller’s shop on Parramatta Road, just one of those little family businesses; everything sparkled … everything was so pretty. There it was – it looked just right. She was a little concerned about the price; he was concerned about the size.
“But the diamond is tiny; I want to get you something bigger.”
“No. I love this one, but $59.95: that’s so much money – more than a month on your salary.”
“I’ll pay it off.”
Then came that awful day, that nervous, sick feeling.
“I’d like to ask permission to marry your daughter.”
Whew! He did it! … and Dad said yes!
There was the little party at home with as many family as would fit in the little bungalow, and a few close friends, of course. Ooohs and aaahs as the girls admired the left hand adornment. Some probably weren’t all that impressed but what the tiny diamond symbolised was what every 21-year-old girl wanted: a date to walk down the aisle with the man who had chosen her to be his wife.
Soon the little diamond was accompanied by a wider golden band.
And so it was worn with love and pride, through the good times and the bad …
For richer (rich in everything but the bank account)
for poorer (they never considered themselves poor, despite the purse often being empty before payday)
and in health …
and in health …
Time to clean my rings … there, that’s better, so pretty – it still sparkles!
She slips the rings back on, grabs the usual bags and heads off along the too familiar road.
Now she walks into the room; he’s sitting there having lunch as usual. She sits in front him, moving her head so that it comes into his line of vision.
“… oh … “ … back to moving the thing in his hand so that he can move that stuff in front of him onto it; what was that for? Oh yes … he puts the spoonful of food into the full glass of juice.
And so she moves around beside him, caresses his shoulders, feeds him his lunch, caresses his cheek and tells him she loves him.
And now and again, out of the corner of her eye, she glances at the finger that holds two rings, one of them wide and gold, one of them so pretty and set with the tiniest of diamonds …
and the diamond still sparkles!!!
and in health …
… till death do us part.
– In honour of my beautiful husband and of all those who walk this painful journey of Alzheimer’s disease.
I wish I had the words ..... Imelda, I too was married young (and lived on Parramatta Rd), had a beautiful, smart mother who was diagnosed with Picks Disease at 60 and died when 69 and a father-in-law who's short dementia journey was terrifying for his wife when he became violent. Now, just 18 months ago, my darling husband was diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's so the cycle starts once again. Like you, Imelda, I often, absentmindedly, touch my wedding rings when I'm thinking about what is in store for the two of us. An early diagnosis has helped us plan for our future and live our life within the restrictions we will be bound by as time marches on - having previous experience with parents with two very different dementias has been a legacy we are grateful for. There shouldn't be any surprises for us (me) this time around but the expectation that the human being you love more than anyone or anything else in this world is travelling along this slippery road is sometimes more than I can bear. The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Gene Pitney, The Beach Boys - all very special to us too and definitely on the playlist I've prepared for him when the time comes for him to relocate to the Nursing Home he has chosen. We are both members of Cronulla SLSC - we actually met there all those years ago so, again, like you two, the beach is a very special place to us. Living at Kurnell is a bonus - our beach is just a block away. Our 'open and honest' attitude to what is happening to us has been a blessing so far but I fear that will be lost in translation further down the track. My greatest hope for him is that I can retain my sense of humour, keep him feeling safe and treat him no differently than I do now - with love and respect. I'm determined he will retain his dignity throughout this hideous condition. He's my soulmate. He's my life partner. He's my darling Doug.