THE BLOG
04/13/2014 07:13 am ET Updated Jun 13, 2014

How a Man With Alzheimer's Proved Chivalry Is Not Dead

On my birthday one year, I came home from work and saw that Ed, my beloved Romanian life partner, had snuck into my house and left yellow roses on my dining room table. That was so typical of him. Ever gallant, he never missed an opportunity to deliver flowers to the ladies with whom he was romantically involved.

That evening we went to dinner at Lenhardt's, an Austrian-Hungarian restaurant near the University of Cincinnati campus.

When I wanted my drink refilled, he motioned for the waiter to come over and then said to him, "The lady would like another iced tea."

In public he always referred to me as "the lady." It made me feel so special.

Another of his charming habits was kissing the hands of ladies to whom he was introduced. They were always delighted by this quintessential old-school European gentlemanly behavior.

Ed had been charming and chivalrous for as long as I had known him. One might have expected these qualities to disappear once he developed Alzheimer's, but the opposite occurred. He became even more charismatic than before.

Whenever I went to visit him at the Alois Alzheimer Center he told me repeatedly, "You are so beautiful."

After a while I started getting a little bored by hearing that so one day I asked him, "Could you please not tell me all the time how beautiful I am?"

"Oh," he said. "I can understand that it must bore you. I will try." Then he added, "But it will be difficult."

There was a long silence. Then he looked at me with a twinkle in his eyes and asked, "Can I tell you how beautiful your earrings are?"

We both burst out laughing.

I was deeply touched one day when out of the blue he announced, "Since I became in such high admiration of you, other beauties didn't exist."

I was amazed that this man living with dementia could still express love so poetically.

But although I was his main "lady," he flirted with others. Whenever any female staff member was preparing to leave his room, he would kiss her hand and tell her how beautiful she was. You can imagine how happy they were if they had to go to his room for something or other! Many of them thanked me repeatedly for bringing him there.

And he kissed the hands of his lady visitors. I wondered if they visited more often just to receive this special treatment.

Furthermore, he did the same when he was out and about in the center. He consistently kissed the cook's hand until one day she asked, "Where were you when I was looking for a husband?"

We all laughed.

I discovered the clearest sign of his chivalry, however, one evening when I was checking out at the front desk. Betty, the receptionist on duty, said, "I'll bet that Edward was a real ladies' man in his day. Every time he comes up here he tells me how beautiful I am and that he really means it from his heart. That it's not just words from his lips."

After signing my name on the checkout list I was ever so tempted to tell her, "Yes, he was a ladies' man, and for the past 30 years I have been his lady."

But I didn't say that. I just smiled and left, feeling warm inside all the way home.

One day when I went to visit, the cleaning lady was there silently mopping his floor. When he saw me, he turned to her and said, "Isn't she beautiful?"

The next day he passed away.

Yes, my Ed was a true gentleman and ladies' man to the very end.

Marie Marley is the author of the uplifting, award-winning memoir, Come Back Early Today: A Memoir of Love, Alzheimer's and Joy. Her website has a wealth of information for Alzheimer's caregivers.

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