Sunday, February 18, 2007

Greatest love story in Hunt County

Ed Note: A touching story -

Herald-Banner Staff

He tucks her into bed every night, and every morning, he has a fresh cup of coffee waiting for her when she wakes up.
Because she’s in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, she can’t do anything for herself. She can’t get up or down from her chair or her bed without assistance. She can only walk to the bathroom with the assistance of her walker. And she needs help with all of her personal hygiene care.
He didn’t have the heart, however, to put her in a nursing home, but he had the heart to keep her by his side forever “even if it meant wearing pink underwear.”
Elmer and Geraldine Yates of Cash will be married 60 years in May. They were chosen as the winners of the Herald-Banner’s “The Greatest Love Story in Hunt County” contest, because of Elmer’s unconditional love for his wife.
As the winners of the contest, the couple received gifts from several local merchants including Angel’s Dream Bed and Breakfast, Calico Cat and Mary of Puddin Hill.
When Geraldine was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago, Elmer could have put her in a nursing home. Instead, he gave up his freedom to care for his wife 24 hours a day.
“It’s depressing to walk into the homes and see people sitting in their wheelchairs reaching out to you,” Elmer said. “I’m not downgrading nursing homes; I just didn’t feel it was the right thing for us. Besides, I would miss her if she was gone.”
“Plus, he wouldn’t get any rest if she was in a home,” his daughter, Ann Shepherd, added.
Geraldine had a brain aneurysm in June 2000, and when she came home from the hospital, she needed extra care.
“Soon after, the dementia and Alzheimer’s began, and again my dad was there for her,” Ann said. “In the last six years, Mother has been hospitalized many times. She had two strokes within a week, and last year, she had a stint placed in one of her arteries and gall bladder surgery.
“She now needs 24-hour-care, seven days a week, and my dad is still there doing most of it himself.”
Elmer, a retired painter and construction worker, admits that his wife used to do it all. Now, Elmer has learned how to do everything. He does all the housework including doing the laundry three times a week, cooking two meals a day and paying the bills.
“My dad has never been a cook, cleaner or organizer,” Ann said. “I still laugh at the first load of laundry he did. They wore pink underwear for a good while. And his cooking, let’s just say laundry was his strong point.”
Elmer chuckled when he recalled his first experience with washing clothes.
“I had never done laundry before she got sick and hadn’t done much as far as housekeeping,” Elmer said. “At church one day, a lady overheard Ann talking about me washing my underwear with a pink blouse and how it turned my underwear pink.
“A few weeks later, another lady came up to me at church and asked me what color of underwear was I wearing today.”
Elmer said he now has more appreciation for the ladies who do all the housework.
“I don’t think they get enough credit,” he said, chuckling. “It’s hard when you have to keep up with everything. It’s a job.”
Since Geraldine requires constant care, Elmer can never leave her side except when extra help arrives. Ann comes over on Wednesdays to care for her mother so her father can go do the grocery shopping and errands. She comes over again on Sunday mornings so her dad can go to church.
“We’re homebound,” Elmer said. “Most of my days are spent inside. In the summers, though, while she’s sleeping, I can go outside and mow and do yard work.”
Elmer reminisced about the early days and said they courted about a year before they got married. Their first date was what Elmer referred to as a picture show or a drive-in theater.
When Elmer was asked if they did any smooching at the drive-in, he laughed and said, “Well, that’s what drive-ins were for.”
When Geraldine was asked what attracted her to her husband she said, “I guess it was love at first sight,” which was one of her only comments during the interview.
“What attracted me to her was that we had a lot of things in common and we did a lot of things together,” Elmer said.
Elmer said the best part of his life was when they were raising a family. The couple has three children, Ann Shepherd and Robert and Jerry Yates; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“Her best qualities were that she was always there for me, always backed me in whatever I was doing, and she was very independent.
“She had her own way of doing things, and I appreciated that."
“Her personality has changed, but not drastically. She can remember long-term but can’t remember short-term things.”
Once the Alzheimer’s set in, Elmer said there seem to be some things missing in his life.
“Before all this, it was the company we had with each other, the discussions, the talking,” he said. “That’s kind of quieted down. I miss going places, and now, there’s a loneliness and emptiness.”
Elmer was recently asked to speak at his church on how his marriage has survived for almost 60 years.
“I hold to the vow that was made, and I feel pretty strong about that,” he said. “That’s part of it, but not the main thing. It’s the bond we share. I still love her, and some days, it’s stronger than others.”
Ann nominated her parents for “The Greatest Love Story” contest but didn’t tell her parents about it until she got the call that they were the winners.
“When someone wants to tell a love story, they often think of words like candlelight, roses and moonlit walks,” Ann said. “While I used to think that too, I now know what a true love story is.
“The best thing a dad can do for his children is to love their mother, and I know that my dad loves my mom unconditionally. When I think of a love story now, I think of words like compassion, consideration, patience, encouragement and eternal.”
Elmer was asked if he thought they had the greatest love story.
“You could say that,” he said. “But there are others out there that have greater stories. But to us, it’s our story.” Throughout their marriage, Elmer has had a tradition of picking out the prettiest, fanciest card for his wife for every occasion.
“I try to pick out cards that relate to us, the part she’s played in our lives and to remind her of what she’s done throughout the years.
“The only thing, however, is that I don’t sign the cards. I used to sign the cards, ‘It’s from me.’ I’ve always told her, however, that I don’t sign them because she knows who they’re from.”
Although Elmer struggles every day caring for his wife, he has no plans of putting her in a home.
“As long as I’m healthy as I am now, I’ll probably never put her in a home.”
Today is Valentine’s Day, but it’s also Wednesday, the only day that Elmer is able to get out of the house. So today, Elmer will be out at the store picking out the prettiest Valentine’s Day card he can find.
“It’s not that I’m waiting until the last minute; it’s the only time I can get out.”
So, tonight, when the lights are turned down low, Elmer will be tucking his wife into bed. Displayed on the nightstand will be the prettiest Valentine’s Day card ever. It will tell of a lifetime full of meaning, but it will be unsigned, because she knows who it’s from.When Geraldine wakes up in the morning, she’ll have two things waiting for her — a fresh cup of coffee and a husband who will always stand by her side.


Loving Annie said...

Oh God, is that beautiful, Nomas. Oh to be loved like that... What an amazing man. What an amazing couple.. Thank you for posting it...

Farm Fairy & Bruno said...

way to make me cry...I love this story. I wish for all love stories like this...

L>T said...

That's a lovely story I know a couple like that very well. He is 92 & she is 90. she has alzheimers. When she broke her hip she got bedsores in the hospital. he doesn't want her to go to a nursing home, because he's afraid they'll ignore her. He hires 24 hour care that costs them thousands every month. she is convinced he's having an affair & doesn't think she's in her own house. She sits at the door in her wheelchair & says over & over, "Jerry, I'm ready to go home now."

Fortunately they have wonderful adult children who take care of their bookkeeping, prescriptions, hiring help, things like that.

Unfortunately, this is going on all over the US.

NoMas said...

Anne: This story gives me hope.

Farm Fairy: I love this story too.

Tart: It is good to know that there are more couples like this.