That Can’t Be!
As my best friend went into surgery for a double mastectomy, she motioned for me to come close. “You have to get Ian to retire; I can’t cover for him any more.” Huh? I had no idea what she was talking about. Had I heard her correctly? What was going on?
Ian was her husband. He was also a minister. Ian and Gail were pushing sixty, but Gail’s talk of retirement took me by surprise. Ian was a happy-go-lucky guy, always joking and laughing. He had a knack for making mistakes, but laughing at himself was part of his infectious personality. Life was fun when you were around Ian and Gail.
As I pondered Gail’s request, and Ian’s personality the phone rang.
“I need to talk to you. It’s got to be now, please don’t say no,” the voice said.
What could I say? We met. The woman awkwardly blurted out a tale of indiscretions involving her and Ian. Huh? I couldn’t believe it. Ian wouldn’t do that!
“Ian, I know this is a bad time, but how about meeting with me tonight on your way home from the hospital?” I asked over the phone.
We met, and the discussion with Ian was disconcerting. He admitted to nothing, but denied nothing. I had been given enough details to know that unless Ian categorically denied the accusations, there was a very real problem. His silence was deafening.
“Ian, I think you should retire,” I said with concern. “Your behaviour is not typical of you, and the church will not tolerate it. Gail needs you. Retiring would be good for both of you.” Ian blew up at me and left.
Two days later, Ian announced his retirement during the church service. He indicated that he and Gail wanted more time together due to Gail’s illness. Huh? I had just seen Gail, and she had asked me if I had been successful getting Ian to retire.
Gail came home from the hospital, and I waited for her to call. There was silence. Worried, I called Gail, who was quiet and distant. I was confused, so I went to their home. Ian wouldn’t even be in the same room with me. Gail blurted out, “How could you let the church fire him?” Huh? Ian had never told Gail about the other woman or his decision to retire.
Some of you will have guessed that Ian had undiagnosed Alzheimer’s. Gail had hidden her concerns, and covered for Ian until her cancer prevented her from doing so. She was confused, and scared, and at times felt like she was going crazy. She didn’t know how to ask for help.
Ian had incurred a lot of debt Gail knew nothing about, but she was held responsible for it since they were married. She had to work. Ian needed constant supervision, and Gail wasn’t ready to put him into an institution. I volunteered to have Ian spend his days with me.
Before I go on with my story, I need to point out that what I am about to say is not the norm for Alzheimer’s patients. What we experienced with Ian was unique to Ian, and a blessing for all of us.
When Ian was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, his comment was, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to hang on tight to Jesus.” He did just that, and entered a world of his own, and that world was beautiful. We lived in the country, and he soaked up the fresh air. He talked to the birds, played with the squirrels, groomed the horses, threw balls for the dogs, and took numerous breaks with snacks, while regaling me with humorous stories from his childhood. There was never an evil word, never a violent act. He was at peace. One day as he watched me rush around the house doing all those things a mother of three does, he said to me quite firmly, “Come and sit on the deck with me. You need to learn to smell the roses.” Huh?
Now as I take time to smell the roses, I remember two of the most amazing people I have ever known: Gail, who remained faithful to her marriage vows; and Ian who found “peace” when the odds were against him.
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