(This is part of an ongoing diary as Ginger Sanders shares the emotional journey she is taking with her husband, John, as they discover his onset of Alzheimer’s. Over 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease; one in eight older Americans has it. Ginger and John Sanders did not expect to be among those statistics. Ginger’s touching story puts a real face and real name on the statistics and – she hopes – will help all of us understand what so many of our fellow Americans, loved ones and neighbors are going through.)
By Ginger Sanders
Special to KyForward
“Like two solitary birds flying the great prairies by celestial reckoning, all of these years and lifetimes we have been moving toward one another.” – Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County
On March 26, 1993, I attended a party with some friends in Charlotte, N.C., where I lived. As a divorced mother of two, I had given up on the opposite sex. My friends had to coerce me to go. Little did I know my life would be changed forever as a result of that evening!
This photo of John and Ginger Sanders was taken shortly after their marriage. (Photo Provided.)
How lucky we are to not only have found each other but to gain each other’s family. Unfortunately both of our parents passed away by our first year of marriage. But between us, we have five children, 11 grandsons with a granddaughter on the way, five incredible sisters, one amazing brother and a plethora of nieces and nephews who enrich our lives (two sisters and one brother have passed away). And of course, Barbara Pierce, who has been our everyday mainstay and a gentle soul.
John and I look back at that day and always think of The Bridges of Madison County quotes. We have always felt that our lives became complete when we met and married. Knowing and appreciating our love story has made the acceptance of John’s Alzheimer’s that much harder — and easier.
As promised, we escaped to Grand Cayman Island on September 15th. What a glorious day! We had not taken a vacation, just the two of us, in 10 years. To us, a vacation should always include our children and grandchildren. We were like giddy teenagers. Sneaking kisses, holding hands, drinking Bloody Mary’s at 10:00 in the morning. It was definitely a second honeymoon.
Ginger and John Sanders during their trip to the Grand Cayman in September. (Photo provided.)
We landed and were met by a gentleman who suggested we stop by the local grocery and wine shops since neither were sold on Sundays. Apparently late Saturday afternoon is when Grand Caymanians do their grocery shopping. The place was packed with so many languages and dialects spoken, all smiling as if they, too, were celebrating with us. Of course, we were shopping for key grocery staples which included WINE, RUM, Diet Coke, snacks and chocolate.
Waiting to greet us at the hotel property was the manager of the Grand Cayman Beach Suites with mimosas for us. Our suite was magnificent (we recommend this property highly!). By 6 p.m., we were on the beach with a Cuba Libre in one hand and holding each other’s hand with the other. We took our first walk on the beach.
So began a ritual where we would walk and talk or sit and talk for hours at a time. During these talks, we would voice our fears, promise not to lose focus on what makes us “US,” remembering to laugh, do silly things and love each with our with all our hearts.
The time away was a time to take a breath, clear our heads, regain insight and love each other. Every day we began the day thanking God for helping us find each other, to bringing us back to Christ, for our family and friends. All of whom have been a tremendous source of support and compassion.
Every day started with breakfast, putting on swimsuits, putting beach towels on our “chosen” chairs, walking the beach and/or reading on the beach. We, of course, brought my IPod so we could listen to the best of Motown. We would end the day with watching the sunset and dancing on the beach. Sometimes people would join us dancing or just sat listening to our music.
Since cell service is so spotty there, we chose not to use our phones but would check email. Now, my daughter, Lindsey, and I talk every day, at least 3-4 times. I had no idea how hard it would be not to talk to her. Lindsey is a tremendous source of daily support and encouragement to both of us. Being without her calls brought a new appreciation of our relationship. John (Pops) also felt somewhat untethered without talking to our kids on a frequent basis. But then we looked at each other and said, “Let’s get crazy!!”
And so we did, starting with us racing to a floating trampoline (which was a lot further than we thought) and then collapsing on top of it. What we didn’t know was that 4 barracudas were circling the floating platform. Knowing they like shiny things, we decided that we would dive over them lest they not bite off my earrings. John did a perfect dive over them. The float was very wobbly. I dove but it ended in a belly flop right on top of the barracudas. Scared them to death! I swear I saw one floating belly up. I swam as if my suit was on fire. Of course John was doubled over in laughter. I lost an earring anyway. John swears he saw a barracuda with a David Yurman hoop earring swimming around.
Although we had some rain showers, we would hunker down at the “swim up” pool bar. The most amazing part of this brief respite was that we were able to reconnect, not focus on Alzheimer’s or life’s woes, just two people in love appreciating that they are together and will remain together always. John is my one love. How lucky am I that I can say that?
“One great love in a single lifetime was enough for anyone.” – Robert James Waller, A Thousand Country Roads
Although Ginger is a vice president of sales for a renowned antimicrobial company (SAS Global Inc.), her main objective is to stymie the onslaught of Alzheimer’s on her husband, John. Ginger lives with her husband and three dogs on their farm in Lawrenceburg. A dedicated family person, she and her husband have 11 grandsons. Ginger Sanders is a transplant from South Carolina and a product of the University of South Carolina where she majored in the English Literature. She has taken on the fight of Alzheimer’s to win and help others as they struggle through the quagmire of this disease. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read all of Ginger’s diary entries