Thanks to Gregg Viall for this touching story about his wife Viv, himself and Mickey Mouse.
One night, at the beginning of our journey with Alzheimer’s disease, my wife Viv was crying uncontrollably, devastated by the prospect that one day she might forget who I was. I tried everything I could for a good hour to stop the flood of tears and to get her to relax. Nothing worked.
Then I had a brilliant idea.
“I’ll get a Mickey Mouse tattoo so you’ll always remember who I am,” I said.
“Really?” she said. She immediately stopped crying, and embraced me.
“As God is my witness,” I replied.
Ironically, Viv and I met at a divorce recovery workshop in 1991; I was going through one, and she was supporting a friend. She and I became friends in turn, and about a year later we went to Disneyland on our first date. I guess that sounds kinda hokey, but we had a great time. I knew then that we were perfectly matched.
Two months later, Viv gave me a Seiko Mickey Mouse watch for my birthday. We laughed when I opened it. I still wear it every day. It’s the only watch I own.
You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m not the sort of guy who would go for tattoos–I’m more like what they used to call “preppy.” But I do keep my promises, and I did get Mickey Mouse tattooed on my left upper arm, like I told Viv I would.
Fast-forward to Easter Sunday 2016, four years after she’d been so worried about not remembering me:
Viv and are sitting on the sofa watching a DVD, some TCM movie no doubt, they were her favorites–Barbara Stanwyck in particular. Out of the blue, she asks me to pause the movie. She turns and looks at me.
You’re so nice,” she says. “But who are you?
I feel as if a freight train has ploughed into my chest, and the force of the blow kills a part of me. I hide the pain for Viv’s sake, and, without a word, I roll up my shirtsleeve to reveal Mickey.
Viv examines the tattoo, traces the outline with her finger, and then looks at me for a split second before tears begin to roll down her cheeks.
“You’re Gregg,” she says. “You’re my husband Gregg.”
Then she grins, and gives me a bear hug the likes of which I haven’t had in years.
Numerous times after that, when I felt she needed reassurance, I’d roll up my sleeve like I did that Easter afternoon and show her the tattoo. I even bought several t-shirts with Mickey emblazoned across the front, and a couple of baseball caps as well, because they helped me stay connected to Viv.
Towards the end, when I’d ask her who I was, she’d say: “Mine,” and that was good enough for me. Viv and I remained bound together in a deep and meaningful way right up until the moment she passed. Dementia never got in the way of our love, and after 25 years that watch means more to me than ever, especially now that Viv’s not by my side anymore.
Viv doesn’t need the tattoo to recognize me now; she can see me as clear as day from where she is, and she knows exactly who I am. As for me, I look at Mickey from time to time in the mirror. He reminds me to take whatever I get and make the most of it because no matter how odd or how small a thing is, there may come a day when it’s all I have.
Image copyright: bukki88 / 123RF Stock Photo