Today's blog is a special one. It was written by my dad, in honor of their 32nd anniversary which is today.
I met Deana Rae in early 1975, her dad was dating the woman next door, soon to be married. I was attracted to the red hair and blue eyes. It didn't take long to figure we were mutually attracted and soon after her 14th birthday she and her dad were full time neighbors. We went steady on and off for the next few years. Then one day, boom. Fred and Edie were divorcing and Deana moved to Corona. She was visiting often, but most times I was stoned or slightly drunk. This didn't always make for meaningful visits. She would bring her car over to be serviced, we would talk about days gone by. One day she called shortly after my parents decided to divorce for the second time. I had finally decided to stop drinking. When I told Deana of this, she thought it was good. When I told her I stopped smoking too she was over within the hour. After a lengthy visit somehow the conversation changed to "after we're married...this-n-that..." Soon it was that we were to be married. I was 20, she was 19. We set the date 28 March 1981. As fate would have it, I was laid off Friday the 13th of February. On Valentine's Day we went on a double date with Gary and Janna to play in the snow up in Big Bear. We talked about it and talked about it and finally decided 'to heck with a big wedding, why wait?' So we decided to pitch the already purchased invitations and get married and start living. So we did. Two weeks later on Saturday the 28th of February we were married.
I was unemployed for about a month, then went through a few odd jobs before getting steady employment. Just in time to find out in June that Deana was going to have twins. At 8 months pregnant, she looked like a beach balloon on stilts. We were blessed with Cassandra and Joe weighing in at 6 lbs 12 oz and 6 lbs 0 oz, respectively. Life was good. Two little monkeys kept each other company and kept us laughing. Three years later, Christina was born, weighing in at 8 lbs. 7 oz. We struggled, but those were some of the best times I remember.
Deana has always been shy, but friendly. One day, her friend Nancy called and asked if I wanted a job working in tile. Even my occupation I owe to my wife.
My mother-in-law, Beverley, was a fantastic cook. She passed this skill down to her daughter. She would visit often and she and Deana would cook and bake together. It was absolutely great coming home to a nice home cooked meal, my favorite coconut cream pie. Nobody could make a better coconut cream pie than Bev. She passed this on to Deana who would always have one fresh baked pie for my birthday.
Deana was also very frugal. She would make a dollar scream. She did a tremendous job keeping the family finances. Whenever we'd go to buy a new car or something, it made me feel 10 ft tall when the guy would comment on how good our credit was and he'd compliment Deana on a job well done. I've learned recently, it's not that easy to balance everything and pay bills on time. Although paying online is a big help.
For as long as I can remember, after we were married I called Deana Toots. Every morning I kiss her good-bye and tell her "Have a good day Toots, love you." One day she asked why I did this. I told her so if anything happened to me and I didn't return the last thing she heard from me was "I love you". When my Italian Grandma visited in 1985 she heard me call Deana "Toots". She told me Grandpa always called her Toots. Maybe in my youth it ingrained.
Besides being a great cook, baker, house cleaner and everything else, Deana was smart. She had planned to go to work after all the kids were in school full-time. She went to school in the evenings and eventually became a Head Start teacher. She was very detail oriented. She would plan things in such detail it drove me nuts just watching. When she had parent conferences, the previous week was busy busy busy. She would have lots of sticky notes on each child, then have to compile a lot of notes and paperwork together to prepare for these conferences. The living room couch was filled with paperwork. She'd be completely involved in this from 4:30 to 9:30 or 10:00 every night for the week. She'd teach Sunday school and have the same detail oriented attitude. Lots of prep, visual aides, treats she'd prepare for a couple of days for a one hour class.
Deana loves to travel. She would come up with ideas for family vacations and we'd make them happen. For our anniversary, however, we'd just go somewhere for the weekend. No gifts, no problems. Just the two of us for a few days, in either the mountains in a cabin or Catalina Island. Just a peaceful, quiet weekend. Usually I'd let her pick the location. Always make the wife happy.
We would have disagreements, but one thing I learned is...never argue about money. "It's only money-I'll make more." However it's okay to ask for an accounting of where it went. Sometimes Deana would get upset about asking where the money went. It didn't help that I really loved to tease Deana. Any chance I got I would tease her almost to the point of tears. She was an easy mark. Eventually after a few decades she finally would know when I was yanking her chain.
Toots is more than a best friend, a lover, a maid, an accountant-she's everything. She even used to do the yard work. No we don't have a big yard, but she was detailed. Flower beds, grass manicured. One day, two of my buddies were driving by; Dave said he took out his cell phone and took a picture of Toots doing the yard work to show his wife "a real woman".
One day I got injured on the job and received 8 stitches to the right wrist. Deana was an excellent nurse. She wanted to drive out to Orange County on a Friday afternoon and drive me home. I refused to have her drive all that way, at that time of day. She met me at the door and stayed by my side all weekend. Even insisting on bathing me-not a bad deal. All she needed was the uniform.
This year we'll celebrate 32 years of marital bliss. Well mostly; the last few years have been somewhat difficult. In 2010 Bev died suddenly from a fall. Deana was very close to her mom. The way she responded to this event was very unusual. This is when I really knew the train was coming off the tracks. Her stepdad had ALS and I was involved with taking care of him until he died 45 days after Bev. Deana's attitude during this time was puzzling to me. This was not the woman I've known all these years.
At Thanksgiving time the following year, I questioned her about dinner since Cassandra would be at her in-laws that year. She didn't seem to understand so I told her not to worry about it, I'll take her to Denny's. Now this should have gone over like a fart in church; like telling Babe Ruth he didn't know crap about baseball. But on Wednesday night, when I asked "where's the turkey?" her reply was,
"You said you were taking me to that place for dinner."
Now I knew that the sub had sank and I actively went to doctor's appointments. I'm pretty critical when I think negatively about someone or something. Her nuerologist was a complete flake. Met him one time and knew a second opinion was needed. Finally I got the hook up with UCLA-it only took them 3 hours to give a diagnosis. She'd seen "Dr. God" for 3 years and all he could tell me was, "It's not dementia and it's not Alzheimer's." Yeah right. Semantic Dementia is fairly rare according to Dr. Mendez. The symptoms fit Deana to a tee. March 7 2012.
Gone is the twinkle in her eye, her spunk, her ability to reason-to keep house-accounting-laundry-the woman I've known and loved for more than three decades is gone. Left in her place, in her physical body is a person that is self-centered, fixated on medicine and her own schedule. 8:30 medicine, 10:30 medicine, 12:00 lunch, then nap, 2:30 medicine, 5:00 dinner, 8-8:30 bedtime. It's almost like being with Rain Man. Life now feels like Groundhog Day. Everyday, hearing the same complaints, stories about how women change, how she thinks she looks different. Not quite as bad as "50 First Dates" but getting close. While she can tell you with exactness things 30 or 40 years ago, trying to reason with her or explaining what seems simple is like trying to teach her trigonometry. I have to constantly remind myself it's not her fault, it's not the real Deana. It's almost like having a 5 year old around. My once very frugal wife now wants to spend, spend, spend. No concept of money at all.
Our dreams of the future are just dust in the wind. Once I was her love, she was my Queen. Now she's still my Queen, but life is dramatically different. Life is full of disappointments. We may never hit the 50 year anniversary mark. She may not remember me 5 years from now. Live for today, Deana still knows who I am. My job is to make her happy, happy, happy. Not an easy task. Sometimes it wears on oneself. But in this game that we call life, no one said it's fair.