As the husband loses himself to Alzheimer's, the wife finds new strengths within herself

Elizabeth Van Ingen’s poignant memoir, Kismet, begins with a whirlwind romantic courtship
in 1959 in Tehran, where she was dazzled and wooed by a handsome and confident Dutch-American businessman. Tony was a peripatetic sales representative for Firestone International Company, and his career kept the couple on the move throughout the 1960s and 1970s, making new and temporary homes in the Middle East, the Arabian Peninsula, Morocco, and South Africa. Like many American women raised in the 1950s, Liz entered her marriage assuming her husband would lead, and she would unquestioningly follow.

As Tony’s career wound down, they settled in Muscatine, Iowa, where they raised three daughters and where Liz eventually had her own in-home business. Toward the end of the century, with Tony retired and the children grown and gone, Tony’s moods became volatile and his behavior turned dangerously aggressive, prone to irrational rages and violent outbursts, frustrated by the loss of his reasoning and his memory. He repeatedly threatened
to run off to nowhere. The man Liz knew as debonair, kind, and intelligent had deteriorated into a lost soul.

But Liz was changing too. Even before Tony was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease (a diagnosis he refused to accept), Liz had begun to assume responsibility. Finally, realizing she had to be the energy generator and decision maker, she sold their house in Iowa without
Tony’s knowledge and moved them near family in Colorado, where she helped him settle
into a memory care facility in Denver.

Tony died in 2005. Liz, having grieved for many years, was ready and prepared to step into the future. Now, having successfully coped with the drama of her husband’s decline, she emerged as a powerful, whole, bruised but unbent woman. She looked ahead to continuing adventures as a mother and grandmother. At the book’s end, Liz is a capable woman welcoming her future with a new companion.

But just as she is enjoying her freedom and new opportunities, fate returns in two unexpected ways, and once again she has to marshal her personal resources to deal with the new hand dealt to her by kismet.

Elizabeth Gibbons Van Ingen is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. After living in many places in the world, adjusting to diverse traditions, and raising three daughters, she now lives and writes in the Denver area. She has been published in two anthologies: The Voices of Alzheimer’s and The Voices of Caregivers, edited by the Healing Project. Kismet is her first book.

From the Joy of Romance to the Agony of Alzheimer's
by Elizabeth Gibbons Van Ingen
ISBN 978-1-56474-545-3
264 pages, paperback, $16.95
Publication date: October 2013

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