I started playing golf 10 years ago when our kids were older and we had the time, and because it was something Barry and I could do together. Barry really loved playing golf.
When Barry bought clubs for me one Christmas, I started the long journey of learning to play golf. Even though I was still swinging and missing the ball half the time, Barry and I started to play most weekends around town. Golf is expensive, but I had no idea we really could not afford to play every weekend. However, Barry kept charging round after round because he was so happy that I was playing with him. I was happy, too. Golf is like a mini vacation.
Suits and golf
Fast forward to 2012. Barry and I were caretakers for 75 townhome apartments. I slowly discovered that our finances were really, really bad so I constantly pressured Barry to find a job. By then, I had not let him do anything with my work for over a year. In fact, I found an agent to do some of the things he had been doing for me all these years. Barry applied for work at many places and finally got hired by Nordstrom in the men’s suit department at Mall Of America. I was hopeful!
He went through all the training, but one day I came home to find him watching TV when he should have been at the Mall selling suits! They had let him go after just three days. I was mad and frustrated because all the pressure was on me to earn money. As Barry sat calmly in front of the TV, I was livid and asked him why he was let go? He told me the manager just had a feeling that he would not work out. What did she see in his behavior that I hadn’t noticed?
Still, I urged Barry to find a job. When I saw that Braemar Golf Course needed help, I kept at him until he applied. I had him call day after day until he got the job as a course ranger and starter. This would be perfect, I thought, because Barry would make some money and we would get a discount on golf. What I didn’t realize was that we would have no time for golf because as caretakers we were busy cleaning apartments and on call most weekends.
That irresistible sandwich
In the beginning, Barry was scheduled to work quite a bit. But as the summer went on, his hours grew fewer and fewer. Barry always talked about a certain breakfast sandwich they made in the clubhouse. He would have three or four of these sandwiches in a morning, meaning he left the course to go eat. I had no idea at the time that people with frontotemporal dementia (FTD) become obsessed with food. Pretty soon, Barry was taken off the schedule even though there was still a month of good golf weather left. He didn’t seem concerned — in fact he was happy to watch TV all day! To say I was frustrated is an understatement. I could not figure out why this person I was married to was becoming such a loser.
In late fall when the golf course was about to close for the season, Barry was supposed to go in for his performance review. He didn’t see any reason to go, but I was frantic to hear what they would say about him. I remember that day so well — I yelled at him until he went. I was cleaning an apartment when Barry called to tell me he had run out of gas near Braemar and had no money. I just couldn’t believe it. Instead of going to his rescue, I yelled “you figure it out!” I feel really bad now about how I behaved that day — really bad.
Confounding, simple things
Barry was beginning to have a hard time figuring out even the simplest things, like getting gas before he ran out. I didn’t help him that day because I was mad and frustrated and didn’t know that FTD was taking over his brain. Barry told me someone gave him money for gas and drove him to a gas station. (Thank you to whomever that person was!) Barry missed the review and was pretty shaken up when he got home. In a few minutes, however, he forgot whatever fear he had and was back watching TV. I knew at that moment he would never get another job, but I wouldn’t understand exactly why until later that fall.
Last summer, we tried to play golf twice. The first time out, Barry hit a golf ball into the group ahead of us — causing some problems. The second time, while playing with our friends, the Becks, Barry could barely hit the ball and seemed confused about the game. FTD was taking away his favorite sport!
This summer I gave his clubs to our son-in-law. Barry can no longer play the game he loved. I still try to play each week in a league but am sad everytime that I no longer have my husband to play with.