I received a lovely email from an old high school friend Teresa Legg Morrison. Teresa and I sang in the Bartlett High School choir, over twenty years ago, in Anchorage, Alaska.
Thank you, Teresa, for sharing your moving story of finding the good in all things, despite some very tough times.
I’m not a writer. But I do have experience in finding the good in all things…
We had lived in San Diego for about 7 years and my husband had a very good civil service job. Then he started acting very out of character and I thought he was turning into a big jerk — he quit his job, made a “partnership” with a complete stranger, and before we knew it, we had to file for bankruptcy.
Amazingly, he was able to get back into civil service in the same career field and find a new job at White Sands Missile Range, near Las Cruces, NM.
But still, his personality was different from what it used to be. He was more self-centered, had a much worse temper, and could make the simplest job into a monumental task.
We were in New Mexico for 2 years and in that short time made lifelong friendships.
Then a new supervisor came into his work. He’d gotten along well with the previous one, but the new one criticized everything he did. Eager to get away, my husband looked for a way to get out of there, applied for and got a promotion and we moved to the Atlanta area.
After three years in Atlanta, my husband came home and said he needed to go to the doctor - he was having problems at work; something with his brain wasn’t right. On the day of the appointment, I came home from my own job, and asked how it had gone – he told me that he couldn’t remember why he’d taken the day off - so he slept all day instead.
Fast forward a year. He drives like a maniac, frequently misses our children’s school activities, or doesn’t show up when he is supposed to take them to practice or doctor appointments. He does nothing at home except watch sports. He comes home four hours late, and doesn’t know why we are worried about him.
One day he comes home from work and says that his supervisor told him they’ve been getting complaints from customers because he was giving them incorrect and/or senseless information. His supervisor tells him to go to the doctor and get things checked out.
The family doctor referred us to a neurologist who referred us to Emory University’s Alzheimers’ Disease and Research Center.
Twelve months later, after much testing, we had the answer: at forty-seven, he had a very rare form of early-onset dementia, called Frontaltemporal dementia.
During the year of testing, he kept going to work, but I later learned they were giving him more and more assistance, and easier and easier tasks to do. In twelve months he went from being able to sign off on $10 million contracts, to putting mail on co-workers’ desks.
So you may wonder, where the good is in all of this…well, it’s everywhere.
Quitting his job and causing us to go bankrupt was horrible; but had this not happened, we would not have ended up in Las Cruces, where we made such wonderful friends who later became our lifeline.
Getting a supervisor who made his work days miserable was the reason he applied for a promotion and we moved to Atlanta. Atlanta is one of only a handful of facilities in the US that actually knows about Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD), much less test for and diagnose it. I also had the benefit of attending 16 weeks of educational support group meetings where I learned practical ways to deal with his illness as it progressed. Had we lived elsewhere, we could have been like many other families that go from doctor to doctor for 10 years before they get someone to listen to them and give an accurate diagnosis.
Despite his declining work quality, his supervisor, without being asked or told, automatically afforded him the protections and accommodations allowed by law, until the cause of decline was known. Most people would have been immediately fired for poor performance.
Just before his work troubles started, our son graduated from high school and joined the Army Reserve. My husband was prior Air Force, and wanted to be able to say he and his son served at the same time. So he applied for and somehow was accepted into the Air Force Reserve, just months before we realized he had something seriously wrong. Once he notified them of his diagnosis, he was told not to report, but he would stay on the books until the paperwork was done to separate him from the Air Force Reserve.
Unbeknownst to us, the very next month the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance more than doubled, which provided for our future.
He had withdrawn and depleted almost all of his retirement when he quit his job in San Diego.
We stayed in Georgia until both our children were out of high school, then we made the decision to move back to Las Cruces, where I have lots of extended family, and where we had made such good friends. Then we found out that my parents were moving back there the very same month we were. They were close by to support us when the going got really tough.
In early December of last year, our son found out he would be deployed to the Middle East on January 9th. My husband was doing very poorly, and I was concerned that as soon as our son left, his dad would pass and my son would have to come right back home. I prayed and prayed about that situation. My husband took a very bad turn on January 8th, and passed just hours before our son was to leave.
It was a tragedy to lose my husband at fifty-two to such a terrible disease, but I can truly say that a lot of good was shown to us during his illness, and there has been plenty of good in my life since, from many sources. I know that even during the low times, goodness will be with me every day of my life.
Today’s practice: Reflect on a time when a door was closed, then remember what windows opened instead.