Affecting debut memoir by a woman whose husband was stricken with sudden-onset Alzheimer’s.
When Stewart, a travel writer, woke her 78-year-old husband Jack from an afternoon nap and found him disoriented, unfocused, and incoherent, her first thought was that he had had a stroke. She rushed him to a hospital, expecting that with speedy treatment all would be well and the former head of the New York Times book-publishing division would soon resume his active, happy retirement. The next day she received the news that Jack had Alzheimer’s, a fatal, degenerative condition that usually develops slowly but can come on in a single episode. How her strong, enthusiastic, bright, and articulate husband changed, and how she dealt with this transformation over the remaining 25 months of his life, are her subjects here. At first, Stewart searched the recent past for overlooked clues, episodes signaling that all was not good in Jack’s brain. She recalled a bicycle accident he once had riding to work, which could have put him at greater risk for the disease, but she eventually realized that there were no answers and it was more important to deal with the present situation. Her recollections of what Jack once was are vivid, but her life revolves around caring for her husband as he is now. With grim humor and frankness, Stewart describes their encounters with physicians, her struggle to care for Jack herself, the measures she took to keep him active and engaged, and her disturbing inspection tour of an Alzheimer’s care facility when home care no longer seemed possible. Fortunately, the arrival of Clarence, an invaluable home health aide, made all the difference, and she was able to keep her husband at home until the end. Most of her memories of their life together are joyous, however, and while this work documents Jack’s terrible mental and physical disintegration, it also celebrates his life, their marriage, and their love.
A painful pleasure to read.