Stories We Tell: Jeannie Puckett
(Installment 14 of 14)
Collected and arranged by
“It’s been about five years that we got the diagnosis [of Parkinson’s].
I think Ralph has had this for years. He told me even in his forties he had it, and I began to notice a hand tremor about that time. He had many concussions, which brings this on, but it didn’t really get bad until after we moved in here [to the retirement community]. So it’s been about five years since we got the diagnosis. The medication has kept him pretty well from the tremors, but he has what they call extreme fatigue. He can have a good night’s sleep and get up and be exhausted, and that’s just part of one of the symptoms. That and the memory loss which comes and goes. Sometimes he’s pretty clear and remembers things, and then, other days, the weaker he is physically, the weaker his mind is, too. So that’s kind of the way it goes. I don’t think I was shocked at the diagnosis.
I knew something wasn’t right because of these tremors, and I’ve always followed medical [research], so I knew that Parkinson’s could be one of the diagnoses, and it was. So it wasn’t a big shock.
[The memory loss] was gradual. We have physical therapy here [in the retirement community], and he was going for physical therapy, and he got where he was forgetting that he had physical therapy. He’s always been very punctual. I’d say, ‘You’ve got it today.’ And he would say, ‘I do?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, it’s on your calendar.’ So that was kind of the first [sign], when you begin to forget appointments.
So then I asked for a memory test, and they gave him one, and they said, ‘He has about a 20% loss.’ And that was at the beginning of the diagnosis, so maybe five years ago. And it’s steadily gotten more.
I guess it was . . . it was a slow realizing ‘I’m losing him, slowly.’ That was the feeling. I’m here, we’re here, but part of him . . . I’m losing part of him, and that’s true. It’s very true. He’s still here, but all of him’s not here anymore.
I have always lived in gratitude. [To help remember that gratitude], I wrote: ‘Live in gratitude for all you have and for all you have had and lost and for all that you have not had to bear.’ Because there is always more than whatever you are going through; somebody else is going through a lot more than you. I try to look at that. I think, ‘This is hard! But it’s not as hard as what those people in Ukraine are going through or what somebody [else is having to] deal with all their lives.’ I just feel real blessed in my life. I really do. And anything that I can do to help somebody else in their path, I’d like to do that. I would like to be able to continue that to the end of my life, if I’m capable of it.”
Reflections from Amy:
Right between the eyes. Jeannie’s quote on gratitude above just hit me right between the eyes. I’ve spent the last year feeling sorry for myself, if I’m completely honest. My twin sons decided to join the Army, following in their dad’s footsteps. When they decided to accept appointments to West Point, I wanted to tell them no—that my heart had already carried enough fear to last a lifetime and I was done with being so war weary . . . but Jeannie’s words wash over me and remind me of gratitude for marrying a man worth following, gratitude for his example of selfless service, gratitude for us choosing to do the hard work of loving each other through it all, gratitude for him—so much gratitude.
Are you an active duty or veteran milspouse interested in being a guest writer for VSP? Get in touch with your details and topic interests on our contact page!