By Gabriela Miranda, USA TODAY
One evening while watching a wedding scene from the TV show “New Girl,” Peter Marshall pointed to the screen and told Lisa: “Let’s do it. Let’s get married.” A very hesitant Lisa said yes, and the couple started planning their wedding. Except only Lisa remembered Peter was already her husband.
At just 53 years old, Peter was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a brain disorder that causes problems with memory and behavior. Now, he’s 56, and Lisa says it’s difficult to watch her husband gradually forget pieces of the life they’ve built after over a decade of marriage. “I wasn’t very excited at first to have another wedding. I just wanted to set my expectations low in case he wasn’t fully there the day of the wedding,” Lisa tells USA TODAY. “The disease is so unpredictable.”
The couple, who have been married for 12 years, met as neighbors in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They were married to other partners at the time and even traveled on vacations with each other’s families. Years later, Peter’s family moved to Connecticut and they lost touch. But after a year without contact, the two reconnected while they both were going through divorces.
In what Lisa describes as a whirlwind romance, they maintained a long-distance relationship until their children graduated high school. They were married in 2009.
In 2017, Lisa’s Valentine’s Day present to Peter was a trip to his doctor. Lisa and close friends had begun noticing lapses in Peter’s memory, but Peter was in denial. When Peter had difficulty forming words and phrases, Lisa knew something was wrong.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2018 and retired; a year later, Lisa retired to become his full-time caregiver.
“It felt like overnight he was diagnosed and our lives completely changed,” Lisa says. “Cognitively, he’s becoming a toddler, and the disease is progressively so fast.”
One night while returning home from a vacation, Peter started giving Lisa directions to the home they shared, as if she were a stranger. He walked her into the home, gave her a tour and didn’t acknowledge that was the home they shared. Then Peter started boasting about his wife, how beautiful she was and how much he loved her.
“That was the silver lining for me, that although he didn’t remember it was me, the memory of me as his wife was still there. The love he has for his wife is still there,” Lisa says.
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