I Am More: Ken & Rose

Recently I recorded an interview with my first I Am More couple, who agreed to talk about their experiences with a challenging new health diagnosis. We had a fun kitchen table discussion, including the history of their relationship. I returned home and transcribed the conversation, sending them a copy to approve. They replied that it all looked good, but pointed out that in a couple of places, instead of writing the names as Rose and Ken, I must have slipped, and wrote Mom and Dad. So, yes, this is my family’s journey:

Ken and Rose, 2023. Colored pencil on paper, 13×20 inches

Ken: In the spring of 1967 I was going to be in a concert in Cincinnati with the Otterbein A Capella Choir. My roommate Mike said he would drive me, and when he picked me up there was this young lady in the car who I didn’t know. That was the beginning. Then she and I ran into each other at the library a short while later. She was studying and I invited her to Campus Center for a soda.

Rose: After that we sent notes back and forth. 

Ken: You sent notes.

Rose: Ok, I wrote notes and put them in his mailbox.

Ken: Then I graduated and moved back to New England. When I got home we corresponded by letter. I wrote to her almost every day.

Rose: You what? (Ken is grinning) You what?!! I sent letters and nothing ever happened, and finally I sent a registered letter, like, where the heck are you and what are you doing?!

Ken: We had a good relationship by mail.

Rose: I wrote at least once a week.

Ken: So the next time I saw her was during winter vacation, she was in her senior year. I drove back to Ohio to see her and then she came with her parents to Massachusetts. That’s when we got engaged. When we got married in August we really didn’t know each other…

Rose: Well, we liked each other quite well (laughing)

Ken: Could have been a total disaster.

Rose: But it wasn’t.

Ken: We drove to Bennington, Vermont with a mattress on top of the car to take teaching jobs, and we’ve been married 55 years.

Rose: I don’t think about it as far as time. It’s the things we do and the people we meet. The hardest part now is my brain. It doesn’t serve me well.

Ken: My first inkling that there might be a possible problem was when she started having trouble with her phone, following the steps, she would get very frustrated. I thought it was kind of odd. Then she stopped using Facebook, which she used to enjoy so much. She also used to constantly make cards for people and that kind of petered out.

Rose: I couldn’t spell anything. I couldn’t add and subtract things. I had all the ideas of what I wanted to do but when I actually sat down to do it I’d have a blank sheet of paper and I didn’t know where to start, I didn’t know what to write. I had little dictionaries lined up on my desk and it would take me forever to find the word. It got really hard with my Garden Teas. That was way more than I could handle. I was having twenty people come at a time and I couldn’t handle that much. It wasn’t fun anymore. Coming face to face with someone and not knowing their name was so scary, I would just feel so stupid.

It took a while before we figured it out. If I hadn’t had Dr. King who knows where I’d be. He was my basic doctor and he knew. He didn’t have to talk to me very long before he knew exactly what was going on. He would come up with little games. At first I was so horrified and so embarrassed but he’d laugh about it and say, do you want to try it again? Why don’t you try it again. He knew what was going on, but then he retired. So that’s how we ended up at the Memory Clinic. It was exhausting, but I had a lot of faith in what they were doing. When we would walk in there to wait for my appointment, why, a lot of time we knew more than half the people who were waiting too, so it wasn’t like it was just me.

When I got the diagnosis (Early Cognitive Decline/Early Alzheimer’s) I felt bad but in some ways I was prepared.

Ken: In some ways I was relieved. I think the biggest fear is the word: Alzheimer’s. 

Rose: I felt free from the unknown. Now I knew if I couldn’t figure out a word, go do something else and come back later. It wasn’t like I was hiding it anymore, I could say, ok, I made a mistake this time, let’s move on to something else. Actually I think I feel better than I did for a while. I love music!! It makes me happy. I can dance. Ken and I can dance, usually in the kitchen.

Ken: After 55 years we have a pretty good relationship.

Rose: I think we’re doing pretty well. I mean, we could sit around and bawl our heads off or holler at each other, but what the heck good is that going to do. We are a team.

13 thoughts on “I Am More: Ken & Rose

  1. Amy, that is such a lovely story! Your Mother is a very dear, funny and kind woman, and I am not at all surprised she has agreed to be part of your “I am more” project, (actually both your parents) and I know she will meet her challenges head on and with grace. Your drawing is beautiful and completely accurate. We all wish the very best for everyone.


  2. I commented already Amy but realized it might have been on someone else’s site. That was a beautiful tribute to your parents. I could hear them speaking as I read it and the drawing is beautiful. Kudos to you.

    Sent from my iPad

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy, this is amazing. I love the story of how they met, and the way they are both able to speak with such honesty and compassion about Rose living with dementia. May the dancing continue!


  4. Hi Amy, This story about your parents & your mom’s challenge was very touching. Hoping that this a slow progression and she has many more happy years with her family. I hope this finds you all doing well, is Dylan graduating this Spring?! Anya may be traveling in South America this summer, and Ken & I may go to the Galapagos with her. I remembered that Iain has been, maybe more than once, and thought I might check in with him about any suggestions. Take care.  Love,Stacy

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s