John Cook can still remember every detail of the first time he saw his wife, standing with her sisters at a dance in Sydney, more than 65 years ago.
“I saw her standing there, and she was something to see,” Mr Cook said.
“I loved what I saw, and I said to myself, she’s what I want.”
Now at their 65th wedding anniversary, many things have changed, but not the way John feels about his beautiful bride Gwenneth.
The couple have shared many years of a happy life, with cruises and holidays, children and companionship, but their lifestyle changed drastically when Gwenneth was diagnosed with Alzheimers.
“I’ve ultimately realised how difficult life is for so many people who suffer from the illness, and there needs to be more awareness in the community,” he said.
Gwenneth is now living in Baptist Care at Kularoo Gardens, and in honour of their 65th wedding anniversary, John, still struggling to come to terms with the way his life has changed so suddenly, wants to share their story.
“I thought it was important to get through to the people. I want to tell her story to let the people know what it’s like for some people, to live with this,” he said.
“I can’t take her out in the car anymore, I can’t take her for a drive, she’s in a wheelchair. We used to go on cruises, we don’t like just going to the one place for a holiday, so we would get on a cruise and travel around.
“I have this one picture, from a cruise in 2015, it’s us with the ship captain. He was terrific the captain was. Now every time I look at that picture I just feel like crying, she looked so well.
“We were only home a week and I had to go in to hospital to have cataract surgery, I couldn’t look after her, so my daughter placed her in Kularoo and she’s been there ever since.”
John has struggled with the reality of change, but is still determined to enjoy his life, and make the most of the time he has with Gwenneth.
“You see these couples at our age, walking around, holding hands, and it’s hard because the person you love so much is still there, but you can’t do that anymore.
“You’ve got to sit there in the chair, and just hold their hand and enjoy the sun.
“They’re gone, they’re not with it. But you just ignore that, and make the most of their company.
“I have friends who have started to change, they feel like giving up, but they need to keep making the most of it. I’ve had my moments, about 18 months ago I felt like I had had enough, but I told myself to pull my head in and enjoy what I’ve got. It’s a feeling you get, you can’t escape it. But I love life and I love enjoying it, and I will keep doing that.”
Alzheimers affects up to 70 per cent of all people with dementia by damaging the brain, resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour. With no cure, Alzheimers is a progressive disease, and while John has struggled to come to terms with it, he still appreciates all the moments he has with Gwenneth.
“I like to look back at our lovely marriage,” he said.