Wagons Ro-oll!

“Courage is being scared to death – and saddling up anyway” – John Wayne

My husband was a keen ‘cowboys and indians’ fan. The old-fashioned movie kind, not the sports teams. He loved all those Westerns with their battles on horseback and being surrounded by ‘the savages’. Heroes like John Wayne, Alan Ladd, Randolph Scott. He always wanted the Indians to win. When he played as a kid, he was always Geronimo.

Since he has been gone, I have been reminded of his favorite movies about the pioneers and their wagon trains across the country. The family who loaded up everything – the special china and their piano (clearly things they would need along the way!) into their covered wagon to start a new life in the West.

As they travelled, some of them succumbed to illness or attack. Their loved ones would be buried in the desert and the rest of them would carry on “to Oregon”. I am carrying on. Not wearing a shawl and pokey bonnet, but carrying on to Oregon. (Metaphorically speaking)

As the old song goes – “what I did for love” I did what any lover and partner would do when they are joined to someone in such a way that there are times when you really don’t think you can go on without them.

At the risk of sounding corny, if you love someone, you will preserve their dignity for no other reason or reward than that you love them. Love is an intangible thing. So how is it then that you feel it with such strength? How can it make you do what you do when Fronto Temporal Degeneration (FTD) takes a hold?

  • You are bound by such emotion that you cannot control it
  • You can overlook horrible behavior because you know it won’t last.
  • You secretly hold hope that maybe it isn’t true and that it may be a mistake
  • You know the person so intimately that you can almost predict their behavior even in an unpredictable disease like FTD.
  • You want to defend them even though you know it looks weird to other people
  • You want to do whatever it takes to make sure they are safe and comfortable.

“Love conquers all” right? Only problem is, we live in the 21st century and not that of Virgil in the year 40 BC. We have different problems to conquer. Yes, there were diseases around in Virgil’s day that no-one could explain. But people were also likely to die as a result of invasion from foreign forces. I guess you could say that diseases about which we know so little are the new ‘invaders’. They’ve been around for a long time but we still don’t know how to cure them. Even love can’t conquer that.

FTD and other dementias are just a small example. Huntingdon’s disease and cystic fibrosis being others. The cruel thing about any early onset dementia is that you have a good life dangled before you like a carrot. You meet your love, raise your children, work hard, hoping for a reward later. FTD takes that reward off the table. Your love is tested to the point of screaming.

On the trail to the West, you had no choice but to carry on after you buried someone. If you didn’t you would be left in the desert to die too. I am carrying on along the trail. I don’t know where we’re going, when we will get there, or even if we will, but I’ll keep driving my wagon.

For him, for us.

I will try and do all the things that he would have wanted us to do together. Richard Bach says: “True love stories never have endings”. Right now our team of horses is down to one and our wagon has lost a wheel. But Oregon is not in sight yet, so I’ll keep going.

Helping Alan to the end of his life was my vocation. Perhaps it was why I am here? To lovingly help him to the end of his part of the journey along the trail.

I scattered some of his ashes in the desert. A place where he often wondered “How did they ever find the Indians?” when he looked at the vast open spaces of the Arizona landscape. We made our home in the very place that was the stuff of his childhood dreams.


Our wagon rolls on.


The following two tabs change content below.
I am an ex-pat Brit living in Phoenix,Arizona for the last fifteen years. I have two sons aged 28 and 30 and 4 grandchildren. My husband died from Frontotemporal Degeneration (FTD) and early-onset Alzheimer's disease last year, aged 57. I am a registered nurse and now work as a Clinical Manager in a hospital. I love music and reading and writing my blog. I plan to publish my book - "The Dance" in 2014. It tells of our journey through FTD over the five-years span of my husband's illness. I hope you enjoy my work.

Latest posts by Deborah Thelwell (see all)

Leave a Comment!

Not a member?

You need to be a member to interact with Silversurfers. Joining is free and simple to do. Click the button below to join today!

Click here if you have forgotten your password

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!