91-year-old writes first novel inspired by his Alzheimer's love story
SAANICH -- Bruce doesn’t remember what orchestral concert he was going to that day, but he’ll never forget who was there when he arrived.
“She was sitting right next to me,” the now-91-year-old laughs. “That’s how we met.”
She was a beautiful stranger named Pauline. “A very bright, witty woman!” Bruce beams.
It was an instant connection. Bruce asked her out and Pauline said yes. After a wonderful while later, both proclaimed, ‘I do.'
“She’s the love of my life,” Bruce smiles.
So you can imagine how they felt when Pauline’s missing ingredients in meals or forgotten days of the week led to a doctor diagnosing her with Alzheimer’s.
“In the initial stages of it, you know what’s going to happen to you,” Bruce says. “That’s worse than the disease itself.”
Yet Pauline kept them laughing by finding humour in her newfound foibles. She kept them loving by seeing themselves in famous paintings.
Bruce points to a print of Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night Over The Rhone’ hanging in his home office and points to the couple holding hands in the bottom right corner. “C’est Pauline et moi.”
But then the day came she could longer recall his name.
“That hurt her so much,” Bruce says, before fighting back tears. “That was difficult.”
So Bruce started typing. Although he spent 35 years reporting for major newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, the 91-year-old decided to do what he’d never done before. He wrote a novel titled "The Manana Treehouse" that was just published.
The fictional love story — like the real-life one that inspired it — is both heartfelt and funny.
“I’m hoping that one of the things the book establishes is that there is life after Alzheimer’s,” he says.
Like how Bruce would wheel Pauline along Victoria’s Gorge Waterway to share a bottle of wine together, or leave her nursing home to have a picnic while overlooking Clover Point.
“There is some life to be lived,” Bruce says before looking down to touch the wedding band on his finger that no longer has a match.
There is always life to be lived — he seems to says — and when a life is lost the love remains.
No matter how dark the situation feels — like the couple in that Van Gogh print —you can always find light by looking up on a starry, starry night.