by Jean Lee
What would you do if both parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s?
At the time of their diagnosis, Ed Church struggles to his feet, yelling, “How dare you use the A. word with me,” while Ibby wags her finger at the doctor scolding, “Shame on you.”
They’d defend each other, Ibby by asserting, “We’re not leaving our home,” and Ed reassuring, “We’re just fine.”
After Rosie moves them to assisted living, they are convinced they are on a second honeymoon, they break the news, “We’ve decided not to have more children.”
In the late stages, they politely shake Rosie’s hand, inquiring, “Now, who are you?”
“The Author’s tender account of the journey of her parents is threaded with humor and pathos, frustration and deep sorrow to experience ‘the long good-by’. It is laced with persistent love as it anticipates loss. The reader is caught early into the story of Ed and Ibby, walking with this family inexorably through the choices a family must make for the safety of parents they love.
“…beautifully written, heartbreaking but ultimately helpful…”
“Lee’s familiar Alzheimer’s memoir format is elevated to a classic love story by the revelation of Ed and Ibby Church’s extraordinary courtship and marriage. World War II lovebirds, the couple’s timeless love letters are shared at the beginning of each chapter, written during their separation while Ed served in the Army. This touching correspondence adds a romantic element to keep the couple’s devotion, for each other and their family, central to their inevitable fate.”
CIR: How did you decide to write this book?
LEE: My parents were dually diagnosed and they simultaneously declined from Alzheimer’s disease for almost a decade. At the time of their illness, I was working as an elementary school teacher. I shared my experience of caregiving with only a handful of coworkers who told me I should write a book. I thought, I’m a teacher. I write lesson plans. I’m just trying to keep my head above water. I read everything I could find about personal experiences with the disease. Whenever I found anything that echoed my experience I gained strength. Eight years later while sitting with my dad after my mother died, I realized he had no memory of her or their 66-year marriage. I decided sharing my experience could lend truth and clarity to others caring for a loved one.
CIR: What was the hardest part of writing this story?
LEE: Even though names and places have been changed, the writing is very personal. The hardest part or writing was convincing myself I had the right to reveal the story.
CIR: What would you compare this book to?
LEE: The best-known story about Alzheimer’s disease is Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Quite a few memoirs exist about the care of one parent, or about a husband or wife caring for the afflicted partner. But, I know of no other memoir written about the dual diagnosis and simultaneous decline of both parents.
CIR: What will readers get out of this account?
LEE: I hope readers take away the idea that there are positives in the midst of the decline. Sunshine glimmers through the clouds if we take the time to look.