Sharon and I had always planned to celebrate our thirtieth anniversary in Hilton Head at Hugo’s. We met Hugo when Fitzgerald’s Restaurant closed a few years ago. Hugo had been the head chef. He moved into a space at the Shops at Wexford. It was his practice to greet diners personally, and we developed a passing relationship. Each year when we visited the island we would reserve our best evening meal for Hugo’s.
Times change. We stopped going to Hilton Head every year. We were there for our twenty-ninth anniversary, and chatted for a while with Hugo. We told him we’d be back the next year for our thirtieth anniversary. It didn’t happen.
That would have been 2012, which was the time when Sharon’s neurological condition called normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) began to have a huge impact on our lives. Cerebrospinal fluid no longer fully absorbed and processed by her body began to pack into brain cavities. The results were increasing degrees of imbalance, difficulty walking, falls, memory loss, cognitive impairment, and incontinence.
Sharon had a shunt surgically implanted in her brain in June of 2013. It was a joyful occasion toward which we had worked for many months. The shunt enabled the removal of pressures in her brain that had disabled her.
When we celebrated our thirty-second anniversary, Sharon was just out of the hospital and still in rehab. We didn’t even consider going to Hilton Head. The next year we visited a friend at a different time of year from our anniversary. This year we missed Hilton Head for our thirty-third anniversary.
Then a few days ago Sharon made an announcement. “Surprise! I’m going to treat us to a special dinner at a restaurant where we’ve never been. I’ve been setting aside money for this, and I’l like for it to be a belated celebration of our thirtieth anniversary.” What a joyful occasion it was–one of the best evenings out we’ve had in years. It wasn’t Hilton Head, and it wasn’t Hugo’s, but it had that same kind of appeal to us. It was a celebration of God’s blessings in our life together.
Who can explain the ups and down life involves? As a saying goes, both sunshine and rain fall on the just and unjust alike. Sometimes life-altering things happen, and all you can do is make adjustments. Frequently new joys and achievements flow from things we thought of as devastating when they occurred. If we are people of faith, the last word is never with us. It is always with God.
Certainly that has been true in Sharon’s experience with NPH. It had cast her into a state of dementia, yet once the cause behind the condition was corrected, her functioning returned to normal. So impressed have we been with this healing that we wrote a small book together. It’s called NPH Journey into Dementia and Out Again, and it was published this year.
With an estimate that five percent of persons thought to have Alzheimer’s Disease may actually have undiagnosed NPH, we have been moved to “get the word out.” From our book sales we send support to the educational and research efforts of the Hydrocephalus Association in Bethesda, Maryland. Every day we pray to be effective in helping someone who might have undiagnosed NPH to find help and hope. Frequently we hear from people who assure us these prayers are being answered.
A few days ago, another prayer was answered. We were able to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of our marriage in a special way we thought we’d missed! It wasn’t at Hugo’s, but it was just as special–maybe even more so!