Chivalrous To The Very End

Ed at 80

In all the years before Alzheimer's struck, Ed, my Romanian life partner of 30 years, was always gallant and romantic. He was the quintessential old-school European gentleman, with impeccable and chivalrous manners. He was forever kissing the hands of ladies to whom he was introduced. You can imagine the surprise and pleasure this brought them.

In addition, Ed never missed an opportunity to send or personally deliver flowers to women with whom he was involved. In fact, on my birthday he routinely snuck into my house while I was at work and placed a vase of yellow roses on my dining room table. I was always pleasantly surprised and felt loved.

He always opened doors, including car doors, for women. The latter impressed my mother tremendously. My father never held open any door for her. Similarly, on our first date, when we reached the table, Ed pulled out my chair for me. "Gee," I thought, "no man does that anymore."
In public Ed always referred to his female companion as "the Lady." For example, he would tell the waiter in a restaurant, "The Lady would like another iced tea." I never tired of this. It made me feel so special.

One might think that Ed's gallantry would have ended when he developed Alzheimer's in his mid-80s. To the contrary. If anything, he became even more chivalrous. He routinely kissed my hand when I visited. He did the same thing with female staff members at his nursing home and to all of his female visitors. And he usually did it not once, but several times. In addition, he always told the staff and his visitors -- even men -- "You are so beautiful."

When I went to visit Ed with my cousin, Pat, one day he couldn't remember her name and so, being the refined gentleman he still was, he politely referred to her each time as "The Lady."

As I was signing out of the nursing home after a visit one afternoon, Maria, the receptionist, turned from her computer screen and said in her lovely Italian accent, and with a twinkle in her dark brown eyes, "I bet that Edward was a real ladies' man in his day! Every time he comes up here he tells me I'm the most beautiful woman in the world, and that it's not just words from his lips -- that he really means it from his heart."

When I arrived to visit another day, Ed's eyes lit up. He exclaimed, "Oh! It's you. Oh! I'm so happy to see you!" His eyes were shining, his face glowed and he held my hand, kissing it again and again. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said in a most serious tone of voice, "Since I became in such high admiration of you, other beauties didn't exist." I was deeply touched that this man with dementia could still express his love for me so poetically.

Still another day when I arrived to visit, Ed was in bed asleep. He was often asleep when I arrived so I called out his name. He opened his eyes then looked over at the housekeeper, Mary, who was silently mopping the floor. "Isn't she beautiful?" he said, referring to me.

Finally, one morning after his aide showered, shaved and dressed him, Ed thanked her profusely and kissed her hand. Then he lay down in bed and never took another breath. My Ed had been a gentleman until the very end.

For more about Ed, read my book, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy, and visit my website, which has a wealth of information for Alzheimer's caregivers.