Mary Ann Nation was interviewed by Harry Wiland.
We had three babies real quick and they were our whole life and Harlan was there every night and his first and last thought at the end and beginning of each day was his kids. We put the three of them through college and they all got married and were ready to begin their new lives and we thought, now, it's time for us. We wanted to do all the things that you think you're going to do. We're going to travel, we're going to spend money on us, we're going to go where we want and do what we want and eat out where we want.
I came home from work one day and he thought he was having a stroke. The doctor told us that it was not good news. That he had a very rare brain virus. It's extremely rare so it was hard for us to find out anything about it. It was hard for us to know what to do. All the treatments were experimental and pretty radical. It's strange though, I don't know if I got through that period through shock, or through faith, it's like all these hard decisions.
I ended up quitting my job and staying home with him and little by little he got a little bit better. When I first brought him home he was scared to death. He comes out of surgery, he can't talk, he can't walk, he can't move his arm, he doesn't know what's going on around him. He had a very bad visual problem, he couldn't have any lights on or he couldn't watch TV. I remember trying to read a book to him and he couldn't even follow the storyline -- it was an irritant to him.
One of the things that really upsets me is when people say, "I don't like seeing Harlan like that" cause that makes it their issue and it's not. It's not about them, it's about Harlan. I was married to him for 32 years before he got sick. I was like most wives -- he was a dirty dog cause he didn't take the trash out, he didn't jump when I spoke, just he always wanted to watch what he wanted to on TV which was most of the time sports. But I have learned more about him in the past two years than I did in those 32 and I can get through the day with the things that I have to do because of his attitude.
He smiles and jokes, you know when you think you'd be crying. We have cried. We've laughed and then just sat down and cried in the same minute. It's so strange one day you think life is not going to get any better this is it, this is awful, this is horrible, you know what's going on. But then you could always, if you go outside your own circle you could always see someone that's worse off. So were just trying to do the best we can with what we have.
You know when I was 18 and was standing on the floor of that Judge to get married I really didn't think of about those vows that I took. It wasn't something I really concentrated on and said, oh man this is for life, in sickness and in health. But it is. It's in sickness and in health. His and mine. You don't rewrite that, it's perfect the way it is.
Mary Ann's caregiving ended when Harlan died in July.
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