Where Art Thou, Shakespeareances?

June 28, 2021, Laramie, Wyoming

The Hampton Inn manager in Layton, Utah, glared at the despicable man he knew me to be. One of the two police officers asked me with an accusatory edge, "Are you the husband?"

Yes, I said, and told them my wife had gone missing.

"She's in my office," said the hotel manager, his look accounting him the hero in this scene. "She said her life was in danger."

No wonder he thought me despicable and himself a savior. He certainly was right about the latter, and at this moment I couldn't argue the former. My only thought was relief to know Sarah was safe and in good hands. I'd navigate whatever happened next with the same honest effort I've relied on for most of my life.

The two policemen split up: one accompanied the manager to talk with Sarah, the other directed me to a table in the lobby and told me to sit down. Big guy, he towered over me as he asked, "So, tell me what's happening."

"My wife has Alzheimer's," I said, a phrase I've repeated with increasing frequency the past two years.

"Badlands, we've got to live them every day." Bruce Springsteen aside, Sarah and I visited the Badlands National Park in South Dakota upon hearing about this strange and wonderful landscape. The Badlands was one of many iconic sites we hit on our cross-country trek to visit family and friends, watch baseball, and see America.

We are in the middle of a 25-day roundtrip from our home in the DC suburbs of northern Virginia to Seattle, Washington. Our circuitous route encompasses family and baseball games along with landmarks Sarah and I have long wanted to visit. We crossed the Northern Plains to Seattle, then down to the Oregon coast, and now we are heading home through the Midlands.

The trip had been going well. Sarah suggested we include baseball on the trip, and it was nice to resurrect that shared passion we had to shelve three years ago. We laughed with loved ones on both sides of our marriage and reconnected with old friends. Sarah got a huge ego boost when we happened upon the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota where she was treated as a national hero. Driving through other-worldly scenery and visiting iconic sites inspired ceaseless wonder at the national treasure that is the American landscape.

On our drive three days ago from Medford, Oregon, to Reno, Nevada, Sarah started expressing concerns that I was planning to hospitalize her. I'm not sure what prompted this belief. I've constantly stated that I want to keep her home with me for as long as viable. On Sunday, our 29th wedding anniversary, our itinerary had us crossing the Nevada desert to Layton, just outside Hill Air Force Base where Sarah retired at the end of her 29-year Air Force career. There we would celebrate our big day at a favorite restaurant.

That morning, as I was emailing a progress report to the family, Sarah jumped out of bed, put a jacket on over her panties, and headed out our hotel room door, proclaiming she was leaving because I was planning to cancel the rest of the trip and run off with "that woman."
I got her back in the room and calmed down. We had a long talk as I guided her back to reality: I had no intention of canceling the trip, and I haven't a clue who "that woman" could be. Throughout our 31-year ongoing courtship, I've turned aside any temptation and proffered opportunity to cheat on her. I'm not stupid: Even as I deal with Sarah's slide into Alzheimer's, I consider life with her nothing short of bliss. Besides, I've got way too much matter to manage without adding a fling to my day planner, and for the past two months I've spent 23 1/2 hours every day by her side. That other half hour is when one or the other of us is in the bathroom or shower.

I had no idea how poignant that point would become until yesterday morning in Utah. Sarah seemed to be sleeping well, and, after the previous day's incident, I didn't rouse her until the 9 a.m. load-out alarm went off. She went into the bathroom and started the shower. I took that opportunity to run down the hall to get a cup of tea to drink while I packed. The door was ajar when I got back to the room, but I figured that in my rush I didn't fully close it. Some 10 minutes passed before I realized Sarah had been showering much longer than she normally does. I checked on her and found the bathroom empty.

I ran down to the front desk, asked the clerk if he'd seen her. With wide-eyed bafflement, the young man said no (in fact, he had, but he was following protocol). I went back to the room, grabbed my phone, and ran out for a quick look around the premises. I was starting to dial 911 when I saw the police arrive. I ran to catch up with them as they walked into the hotel lobby, where I admitted that I was "the husband."

"She has Alzheimer's," the officer radioed his partner after interrogating me. The other officer and the hotel manager joined us. "I want to apologize, sir," the manager said, no longer exuding the hero. "I have family members with dementia, and within a couple of minutes of hearing her talk I realized that this was the case. But, when someone comes to us and says their life is in danger, we have to act." I, however, still considered him the hero, told him he need not apologise, and thanked him for acting as he had to keep my wife safe. (Later, as I checked out of the hotel, I assured the young desk clerk he did the right thing, too). The police officer who talked with Sarah noted how much trouble she had piecing her thoughts together, including her concerns about my "mistress." We discussed the next step. I suggested the officer talk to her again; if she didn't want to see me, initiate crisis intervention protocols by taking her to the nearby hospital's emergency room.

She didn't want to see me.

Seeing the empty shower was the most frightened feeling I've ever had, a stab of fear that tightened every sinew in my body. A worse feeling was about to flood out that one. As I walked back to the room to finish packing, Sarah was coming down the hallway with the policeman. I stepped into an adjoining hallway and waited for them to pass, making sure I didn't speak or gesture in any way. I just looked into Sarah's face as she passed. She glared at me with the most intense hate I've ever seen on anybody's face, unequivocally expressing that 29-plus years of devotion was dust.

The most chilling irony: she had accused me of conspiring to hospitalize her, and now she was heading for the hospital of her own volition despite my efforts to forestall her inevitable institutionalization.

When next I saw her, a chagrined Sarah was sitting on the edge of a hospital bed, apologizing repeatedly as I assured her all was OK. After the requisite crisis counseling, we were sent on our way. All agreed that we should finish the trip, and we made it to Laramie on what proved to be a pleasant drive with good company through more other-worldly terrain. Tomorrow, we head on to Bellevue, Nebraska, to spend a day with Sarah's brother.

August 7, 2021, Northern Virginia

Events with Sarah would get worse. A more serious incident occurred in Nebraska, necessitating another police intervention, though this time it was the husband whose life was in danger. The subsequent emergency room visit included a full medical screening for Sarah that resulted in an IV drip for dehydration, antibiotics for a urinary tract infection suggested by a lab test (UTI's can contribute to delirium for people with dementia), and a dose of antipsychotic medicine. We cancelled the remaining family visits and baseball games and covered the 1,265 miles home in two days. I barricaded the door to the hotel for our one layover, and then drove the final 14 hours in one day, the longest stretch I've driven since I was in college 42 years ago.

Once home, I have devoted all my time and efforts since on Sarah's state and affairs. We had to get her health stabilized with both her neurologists (new medications in response to the psychotic episodes) and her primary care physician (treating the infection and other medical matters). I had to establish a safe environment in our home by installing interior locks for the doors, decluttering the premises, and hiding our kitchen knives. I'm doing a full assessment of our finances, trying to get Sarah legal representation, and working on establishing a more active social network for both of us. Most importantly, I've been working to get her "24/7" care because, obviously, I can't do it alone anymore. She started with a home health care program last week, and I'm finally able to dedicate a few hours a week to my work.

That work was to make my first update to Shakespeareances.com since January 20 on Thursday ("Capital Region Theaters Require Vaccinations"). I worked on the website through the spring, but was focusing on the technical framework as part of a complete infrastructure overhaul and redesign of Shakespeareances.com. Other professional intrusions and the notable worsening of Sarah's dementia hampered that effort. Then, we decided to devote the bulk of the summer to traveling: the cross-country trip, a jaunt into the Northeast, a ramble through the Southeast, and a stab into the Southwest to give family and friends and Sarah a last chance to spend quality time with each other. Meanwhile, we'd "see America" and take in all the minor and major league baseball I could fit in to the journeys. It all fell together so perfectly it seemed ordained, and we heard nothing but support for our endeavor, including from her doctors. Now, all future trips have been cancelled.

Thus, this notice not only is providing my readers an update on our situation, it's announcing the relaunch of Shakespeareances.com.

Postings will be slow at first and initially focused on Where's Will @ (I have almost 20,000 Shakespeareances emails to work through, 80 days' worth). Meantime, I'll be working on that long-promised redesign. Eventually, I'll begin writing and posting commentaries and reviews, including for a new On Line section as well as working through the backlog of pre-pandemic reviews dating back to 2018's Shakespeare Canon Project. I'm not sure when (or how) I'll get back to a theater. After I finish the website redesign, I'll resume work on Where There's a Will chronicling the Canon Project. I've already resumed work on the sequel of that endeavor, chronicling Sarah's and my passage through Alzheimer's (The Tide of Truth: The Alzheimer's Chronicles of Sarah Smith), a real-life Shakespearean tragedy if ever there was one.

Sarah insists on my resuming work on Shakespeareances.com, a factor in our getting home health care. She also continues in her unwavering endorsement of the Sarah Chronicles: she wants other families facing dementia to learn from our experiences, our mistakes, and our unconditional love. And, because she still claimes to be capable to do so, she has read this posting.

I have set down a timeline, but I'm not going to proclaim it because I have missed every one of my self-imposed deadlines the past three years. Besides, one thing I've learned is Alzheimer's arbitrariness. Sarah and I both want to live our lives as unimpeded as possible, but the disease dictates our priorities from minute to minute. It also dictates her feelings for me minute to minute. These are trying times, but I remain enveloped in the bliss of Sarah's love going on 32 years now. Our romance still lives on, and so do the passions bred by that romance, including Shakespeareances.

Eric Minton
August 8, 2021