Thursday, May 31, 2018

Renewal: A Life Lost and a Life Saved--Douglas H. Geister

I had a career in the health care industry as did my wife Carolyn who died from Alzheimer's after suffering all phases of this cruel disease for eight long years.  She was kept at home with private duty nursing care throughout.  The most difficult thing for me was to observe her fun loving, vivacious personality and powerful intellect gradually evaporate.

Carolyn was a charismatic feminist and renaissance woman.  She was a leader and teacher, and held positions of Clinical Professor at several universities.  Prior to our move to Asheville she was Vice President of Patient Care Services at Cincinnati Children's Medical Center.

And Carolyn changed my life.  She lived large and in "The Now".  She was a tennis player, down hill and cross country skier, golfer, was a great sailor and oil painter.  She loved the arts, traveled widely, and was fascinated by other cultures.  She had a great life and a good ride.  It was my privilege to spend my years with such an extraordinary woman.

My observation of what happened to my wife as the disease progressed through its stages had a devastating emotional impact on me.  As a result, I wallowed in self pity, drank to excess, slept for long periods, had no energy or initiative, dropped out of community activities and cut off social contacts.  I was not a pleasant person to be with.  I was in deep depression.

One day I decided to climb out of the pit I dug for myself.  I ventured out by enrolling in two classes at OLLI, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville.  One of them was Men's Wisdom Works, taught by Chuck Fink.  Men's Wisdom Works is Chuck's brainchild, a genius of an idea and elegant in its simplicity.  It is a way, a method by which men can get together and talk about their experiences, their hopes, dreams, plans, fears, joys and concerns.  It is something that men find hard to do because of how our culture has conditioned us, and because there are no organizations that encourage this sort of communication.

I joined Group V, a group of eleven men in generally the same age category, from a variety of different backgrounds, all of them interesting men with diverse life experiences.  We share personal information about who we are and where we are in life.  We learn from one another by sharing our life experiences.  The Group became my lifeline to getting back into a healthy lifestyle.  We have become a brotherhood of sorts, and there is nothing I would not do to support any of them.

I have learned with these brothers that life goes on, but also life is short and unforgiving.  I am fortunate in having met a woman who is my life companion.  I have a boat that we sail on a nearby lake, play golf, attend social and cultural functions and travel together.  My health is good and I'm enjoying life with Julia.  Much of it happened because of Chuck Fink and MWW Group V.  I will always be grateful for Chuck and his Men's Wisdom Works idea.  It saved my life.