An Amazing Project

The purpose of this blog was for my husband, Bill, and me to find things we could do that would make our life rewarding during the latest and most challenging portion of our lives and then share what we did. This became more difficult to achieve last year when Bill’s physical challenges led to him being completely homebound, tethered to his oxygen equipment a good share of the time, and with a short-term memory loss that had become severe. Many of the usual pleasures of our senior years were no longer available to us: things like travel, attendance at musical or cultural events, or even watching movies or television since the plot line would disappear from Bill’s brain during the commercial. In spite of that, we found one of the best projects of our life and carried out the bulk of it during that last year. And we had some of the most wonderful times together in the course of completing that project; times that far exceeded the pleasure we had received from many of the usual activities.

Most of us who are in, or are approaching, the final fifteen percent of our lives very likely have a large collection of both hard-copy and digital photographs. We have not only the pictures that we took ourselves, but also pictures we may have inherited from our parents or other relatives. I suspect that many of you, like me, had an entire bookcase full of photo albums. Our project started out when I took some of the photo albums out and decided it would be fun for Bill and I to look over the memories of our past. Bill’s short-term memory may have been severely compromised but his long-term memory was just fine. However, as we looked through our old photographs and had fun sharing the memories those photographs invoked, I could not help but notice that many of the photos had begun to deteriorate, some of them very badly. I also found that some of the oldest photographs, the ones I had inherited from my mother, were of people whose names I no longer remembered. Continue reading

My Life Has Changed Forever

As noted in earlier posts, until now this blog has been a joint effort between Bill and Janet Buell. Janet did the actual writing but Bill provided much of the inspiration, gave wonderful critiques, and enjoyed thoroughly hearing any feedback that occurred. And now Bill is gone and I am going to have to learn to carry on without him.

Bill first began showing signs of the illnesses that disabled him in the early 1990s. By 1995, he was forced to retire from a job that he loved by the progression of those illnesses. We spent 22 years living with his chronic illness, and that fact was largely responsible for our drive to see that life remained fulfilling in spite of the challenges. As Bill’s illnesses progressed, finding ways to keep life fulfilling required more and more initiative, determination, imagination, and a sense of humor.

By the end of 2015, my wonderful, lovable, endearing husband had reached the point where he was completely homebound, required the constant use of an oxygen supply to keep him comfortable, and couldn’t remember what he had for lunch on any given day. He had chronic pain, frequent periods of confusion, and was so short of breath he had to give up playing his beloved trumpet. But the most important of Bill’s qualities did not change during this period of time. He retained his sense of humor, his extremely loving disposition, and his ability to enjoy the simple things in life.

As he had to give up so many of the things he loved, it did become more challenging to keep Bill’s life fulfilling. As he was forced to give up riding his treasured Harley Road King and then his MadAss scooter; then lost the ability to work in his garage workshop; lost his ability to travel; and his ability to enjoy the company of friends—we had to become very creative to find entertaining and fulfilling activities. There was a certain amount of satisfaction involved in managing to have a good time anyway.

And now Bill has moved on to a new level of existence. Bill and I both felt, right up to the very last moment of his existence in this world, that our life together was still pleasurable and fulfilling. And now I have the challenge of discovering ways to keep my life entertaining with my partner gone. I had never in my life lived alone. I was 19 years old when I met and married Bill, and I moved directly from sharing a bedroom with my siblings to sharing a home with my husband. For 53 years, my life was very much a partnership with the man I loved. Now, at the ripe old age of 72, I’m going to have to learn how to go it alone. Continue reading