I sit alone in an almost eerie silence nine months to the day since my beloved Trond drew his last, labored breath. All that time, and for so much more before, I myself was silent, lacking will and way to express the waking nightmare of our life.

Trond’s debilitating dementia robbed us, ever so quickly at the end, of much more than the noble man he had been for some 80 years. Caring for him day and night for the last many months of his otherwise independent life all but took my breath away. I still don’t have it fully back.

Nonetheless, a frighteningly empty Monday looms before me—with, okay, no legitimate excuses left to drum up. And so I open my phone and begin to document the demon that affects one in three of us who make it to age 85.

Difficult a story as it is, I feel my heart quicken at the chance to express myself once more, to share the terrible universality of my particular experience. Feels so good after three years of near silence and almost unbearable pain.

(Thank God for the gift of words to offer what this dear heart of mine is becoming too full to contain. My love and a shoutout of great gratitude goes to my Baldwin School English teachers and to advertising Creative Director Kaye Christian, all surely dead by now. How blessed I am that so many generous women knew the value of teaching us to write, and in a way that can be heard and helpful to others.)

My nightmare—if not yet Trond’s—began about 20 years ago when he turned to me one day and asked quite innocently out of the blue, “What is an eggplant?” My heart sank, as it was to do many times during the next several years.

Granted, an eggplant was not a very popular American vegetable (it’s actually a fruit) and Trond, who was born and raised in dark, frigid Norway, had probably never seen that sun-loving nightshade until he emigrated here. But the Trond I had married 30 years earlier knew perfectly well what an eggplant was. And now, suddenly, he didn’t. So marked the beginning of the end of our life as we’d known it.

Many people claim the idea “it’s dementia” doesn’t occur to them until it gobsmacks them over the head. Often, they write off slight stumbles as “normal aging.” While I don’t generally agree with this old adage, in that case maybe ignorance is bliss.

But from our unnerving eggplant moment on, I knew exactly what was going down. And I tried my damnedest not to be looking for the next worrisome sign around every murky corner. As with the puzzle where you finally see—and then can no longer not see—the monkey in the tree, that was a losing battle for me.

Trond’s mother had fully developed dementia at around the same age Trond’s started ramping up. We both knew it was a strong possibility for him and believed there wasn’t a darned thing we could do about it. Since I can’t remember when we talked about it openly for the first time, it must’ve happened pretty organically. The topic was hard but not taboo—at first.

What I do distinctly remember is the day years later, in the summer of 2016, when we had “the talk.” We crossed a vast green lawn toward two bright Adirondacks chairs by a lake at the Prince Edward Island inn where we were staying. We’d gone on a rare mini-vacation from what most people would’ve said was already a vacation, a couple of months at our Nova Scotia cottage.

The plan was to get away from the everyday in order to talk frankly without interruption about Trond’s forgetfulness and confusion. It was a matter we couldn’t help noticing had increased dramatically, but which we had assiduously avoided addressing lately. It had gotten hard.

Still we both knew it was high time to get real with it. So we had set aside that afternoon, first outdoors at the inn and later on the stunning red sand beach nearby, to address it head on.

We settled as best we could into the hard wooden chairs and took in the warm summer breeze coming off the ocean. There was a short silence as we hesitated before plunging into this conversation we dearly wished we didn’t have to have.

Then Trond, ever the gentleman who, unlike his admittedly potty-mouthed wife, rarely used even a mild expletive, turned slowly to me. With the most pained expression I’d ever seen on his beautiful Nordic face, he cried out from the depths of his being, “I am losing my fucking mind!” There wasn’t much more to say that day.

We walked slowly across the lawn to the beach, completely empty except for a professional photographer there, he told us, to record the striking sunset. As Trond and I sat quietly holding each other in the fading golden light, the dear man asked if he could take our picture. And so he did, beautifully documenting the beginning of the end of us in our favorite part of the world.

And so began the odyssey that swept us and our two devoted children up and away for the next four years. Thank you for bearing witness to my sorry story, which I’ll pick up again soon.

About the Author: Suzanne Grenager

A seasoned writer and mentor with a gift for helping people see and be their most authentic, empowered Self.

14 Comments

  1. Jean Lumpkin June 26, 2021 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Thank you Suzanne for writing this sweet and sad account of what it has been like for you. It will be helpful to those who read it and are or will face the same thing – and for your friends, it is a gift to understand more fully what you have gone through and where you are now.

    • Suzanne Grenager June 28, 2021 at 7:52 pm - Reply

      I can’t thank you enough, dear Jeanie, for appreciating both what I have been through and my expression of it. I’m grateful to be able to share my experience with supportive friends like you!

  2. Karen Latvala June 26, 2021 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    Dear Suzanne,
    I admire your courage in beginning to write this painful story. I feel honored to be able to read it and am sure that we will all learn from your heartfelt comments. I look forward to part 2.

    • Suzanne Grenager June 28, 2021 at 7:55 pm - Reply

      Thank you so very much, dear Karen, for your heartfelt support and encouragement. I have felt and been grateful for it for a long, long time!

  3. Donna Fleetwood June 26, 2021 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Suzanne, when I saw my inbox, I assumed that you were writing about losing Trond, but I had no idea that loss began years ago. I remember him as such a vital, and intelligent soul and would have never guessed that dementia would select him. Being in a body without the mind present must truly be a nightmare. Sending you love and gentle breezes my friend. Donna F

    • Suzanne Grenager June 30, 2021 at 1:31 pm - Reply

      Thank you very much for weighing in here, dear Donna, And for your kind observations about Trond. The good news is that although the first signs appeared a few decades ago, his life-robbing dementia didn’t fully kick in until much more recently. And yes, then it was a nightmare—for us both.

  4. Rebecca Kirkland June 26, 2021 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Suzanne, Our paths and our stories are tracking. Mine begins in 2014 when his memory issues made me aware that more was to come. And so it has. We cannot talk about it together or with others and that contributes to making it difficult. His sister died this week in a memory care assisted living home. Each step along the way is a new chapter, a new day. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Maybe I will be able to do it someday.

    • Suzanne Grenager June 30, 2021 at 1:42 pm - Reply

      Dear Becky, I am so very sorry you have had to embark on the same terrible journey we have recently completed and that your husband’s sister had to live it too. I dearly hope your husband will decide to talk with you about it, which should make the path easier to navigate, I believe, for both of you. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help from afar, and at the least, I will be holding you both close to my heart. ♥️♥️

  5. Angel Pricer June 27, 2021 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    Dear Suzanne,
    My heart leapt in anticipation of reading what you were ready to share, and did a number of dips as I contemplated the length of the journey that you and your beloved Trond shared. If anyone can invite the essence of grace into the dark recesses experiences by these 1 out of 3 and their families endure, surely it is you

    • Suzanne Grenager July 2, 2021 at 11:52 am - Reply

      What beautiful words of support for my healing, dear Angel! I am very grateful.

  6. Matt June 29, 2021 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    Suzanne, thank you for posting me about this. I miss you and Trond both; you two played such an enormous role in my life at a very important time. It’s sad to hear about this aspect of Trond’s last few years; it many ways it conflicts with the way I knew him and the last few times we got together. But it is good to remember. Such is the nature of truth. I look forward to reading more, and as always I wish you the very best. Matt

    • Suzanne Grenager July 2, 2021 at 12:00 pm - Reply

      It is so good to hear that we were able to support you at a difficult time in your life, dear Matt. I know Trond very much valued your friendship, as I do too. And I am so glad that Trond was still Trond the last time you were together with us — at our Lewisberry farm — which I remember well. Thank you for showing up here with *your* support for us!

  7. Millie Grenough July 6, 2021 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    Sweet/Strong Suzanne, your words are indeed powerful. Your “naked self” once again gives truth and light — and even touches of humor — to so many who are walking this nightmarish journey. Thank you for the effort it is taking to share this. I send you energy for continuing. Big love.

    • Suzanne Grenager July 18, 2021 at 12:06 pm - Reply

      A belated thank you, dear Millie, for your never-ending love and support, which I assure you flows both ways. I am blessed by our friendship!

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