One Couple's Journey with Alzheimer's Disease
July 10, 2013

One Couple’s Journey With Alzheimer’s Disease

Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) reporter Ina Jaffe reported about Pansy and Winston Greene. Pansy has Alzheimer’s disease, and the couple wanted to discuss their journey with the disease and their daily life.

Once Pansy finally received her diagnosis, it was not really a surprise to either Winston or Pansy. For a while, Pansy had been having little trips, like she got lost coming home from a place she regularly went, or if she spoke to her granddaughter one day, the next day when the granddaughter called Pansy would say, “Oh my goodness, it’s good talking to you. I haven’t talked to you in a long, long time.” These little moments made Winston and Pansy aware that something was not right.

The biggest surprise when she got her diagnosis was that others in her family suffered and died from Alzheimer’s or currently had the disease and the Greenes did not know about it. That silence on Alzheimer’s is not abnormal. For some reason, families do not communicate about the disease. So, Pansy decided to change that pattern within her own family. She and Winston told everyone.

For three years now, Pansy has been holding her own. And Winston says that little has changed in their lives. They still see family, travel, and live. Now, though, Winston writes the checks and makes the arrangements. And he has to be more patient. As he says in Jaffe’s article, “If I see that Pansy may forget something, I don’t have to say, ‘Oh well, Baby, you just told me that,’…That’s what I have to really work on myself.” Instead, he tries to say, ” ‘We put it on the calendar,’ and then [I] just answer her question.”

Pansy has been doing things to help herself, as well. She takes her prescription, does crossword puzzles, and stays active. She knows that she does not remember everything and that she can’t stop the progression of the disease, but she simply will not let Alzheimer’s disease keep her from living.

When I read this article, I found myself deeply inspired by this couple. Not only did they realize that she needed help, but they acted upon it and took responsibility for her health. Moreover, their dedication to each other and their life is truly inspiring. Clearly, they love each other.

Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. It starts with the short-term memory, which is frustrating enough, but eventually it takes away the long-term memory, the lifelong memories and experiences that shape us. It steals away the important people in our lives. It steals the important moments. Few diseases are just that cruel.

Yet, there is hope. The Greenes exemplify that. They did not give up on each other. They know that the future will bring only more memory loss, but that is not stopping them from living now, from loving now. They do not focus on what tomorrow or next year will be, but what today and right now actually are. That is inspiration for all of us. So often we focus on what might happen instead of what is happening. Stories like the Greenes remind us to stop worrying about tomorrow because today is all we have.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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