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My Gentle Giant

Bo was the most active, physically fit person I knew. He was a gentle giant: 6 feet 4 inches of “What shall I do today?” Tennis, golf, water or snow skiing, the casino, flying model airplanes, boating. He loved the water — we always had boats — and his favorite life was on the Chesapeake Bay. We always joked that he worked to play.

Bo was smart and strong with warm, kind eyes that I loved. I long to see them smiling at me once more, but now if he does look at me, he doesn’t know who I am. He was silently stubborn, and it often took a lot of convincing (plus a little wheedling) to get my way. I often told friends that Bo kept me honest; he had no pretensions.

Bo loved rich foods, especially ice cream. I teased him that his favorites would be the “don’t” list for a cholesterol assembly. On his birthday each year he loved that we hired a chef to cook his favorites for a formal dinner with friends.

World War II and its airplanes were his passion. Poor vision kept him from becoming a pilot, but he built and flew model airplanes and would drive cross-country to an air show. He often talked of his love of the P-51 Mustang.

His knowledge of cars, boats and current events was amazing, and it wasn’t unusual for friends to consult him before buying a new car. Our mechanic told me that when Bo arrived, the chief was always called to meet with him.

Everyone liked Bo’s ready smile and unassuming way. Even very late in his illness, he joked. In November, when our nephew visited, he said to Bo, “I’m Dean, you know, the good looking guy.” Out of his sleepy silence, Bo said, “No, the ugly one.” He was always ready with a hearty laugh, and when we were in a crowd, I knew where he was because I heard that laugh across the room.

When we were dating, he told me, “I’ll always be steadfast and loyal.” And he was. Oh, he was.

Tonight my heart hurts. It’s Christmas and I’m surrounded by beautiful lights… lights that my husband Boris loved but that he doesn’t see because he’s not aware of the world around him. He has advanced Alzheimer’s.

Bo and I have been married for 53 years, and for the last 9 of them he has been disappearing slowly into the world of dementia. It has been a gentle and graceful decline – no violence, no wandering, very little sundowning – just sadness…extreme sadness.