The Awful Truth

The words spoken to my husband could not be true. I moved into the zone that momentarily shields from reality and waited for the specter to go away.
“You have Alzheimer’s. I’m sorry….” Our family doctor’s voice trailed off.
“I’m so glad it’s over” I was startled by the voice. It did not sound like Dan.
What was over? What did he mean? Had he known something was wrong with him? Had his own denial covered his fear?
It was May of 1996. My husband, Dan, was sixty years old, and we were in the midst of catching hold of our dream. Like many couples, Dan and I were often Janus-like, facing opposite compass directions, but we managed to coordinate our lives enough to move, however clumsily, in ways that offered mutual satisfaction and confirmed our unity. We had both been firm in our decision in 1988 to transfer our lives northward. We had spent twenty summers vacationing in northern Minnesota, and we loved the pine forests, lakes, and craggy landscape. We had canoed and hiked many miles with our sons and had spent countless hours fishing on the lakes. The Northwoods was a place of beauty and peace, a place that felt like home.
In the fall of 1989 we had found our “perfect piece of land,” deep in the northern Minnesota woods, and Dan drew the plans for our “perfect home”: a music room/study for him on the main floor; an upper half-floor with my study and a guest bedroom; and in the basement a guest suite with bedroom and sitting room/library. We envisioned an active life together hiking, canoeing, snowshoeing, skiing, and fishing. Colleagues from our professional lives, friends, and family would come for extended visits. We had plans to travel.
In January of 1992, I had taken up residency in the basement of our future home—which as yet had no upper floors. Dan had continued teaching at the college and living in our “old house.” He spent summers, quarter breaks, and Christmas “up north” with me. I taught part time and worked as a free lance writer. From time to time I traveled down to be with Dan. We were poised between our past and our future, and we were excited and full of expectation.