ANDOVER, Conn. — The proposal came while watching a wedding scene on TV.
“He looked at the TV and he said, ‘Let’s do it.’ And I said, ‘Do what?’ And he pointed at the TV and I said, ‘Do you want to get married? And he said, ‘Yes,’ with this big grin on his face,” said Lisa Marshall, a resident of Andover, Connecticut.
Then Lisa Marshall said yes—again—to her husband Peter.
But she wasn’t sure he would remember asking.
Peter Marshall, 56, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in the spring of 2018.
His forgetting began about five years earlier, Lisa said, when he had trouble coming up with words.
“He was talking around the word ‘airplane.’ He was saying, ‘You know the thing we get on when we travel, when we go up in the sky.’ He just couldn’t remember that word. He would often describe a word rather than use it,” Lisa said.
Even after the diagnosis, Lisa said she couldn’t process the severity of the prognosis.
“My awareness of Alzheimer’s was it’s an older person’s disease and I don’t need to know anything about it,” she said. “Until it’s relevant in your life you don’t pay any attention to it.”
She was forced to learn quickly as the pace of the disease progressed.
Peter had to retire in January 2019, less than a year after the diagnosis. Lisa gave up her career as well in January 2020 to become Peter’s full-time caregiver.
Her coping outlet is her blog, “Oh Hello Alzheimer’s.” The page offers an inside look of caregiving and serves as a community forum for thousands of people affected by the disease—friends, family, health care workers and other caregivers.
“It’s a very lonely life because you lose your connection to your soulmate,” Lisa said. “There’s no reminiscing anymore. It’s just caregiving.”
The couple met as longtime neighbors in Harrisburg. They later moved to Andover, Conn. and had a beachside wedding in Turks and Caicos in 2009.
So when Peter proposed, Lisa decided to follow through on his idea.
“We had a very short window to do it because Peter was declining so rapidly,” Lisa said.
Her daughter, a professional wedding planner, organized the entire event in six weeks.
“It was a magical day. Peter was very bright and he was sharp and he was focused. He stayed with me cognitively all day long,” Lisa said. “It was beautiful.”
As Peter’s memory continues to fade, Lisa said she will remember that day forever.