I’m not talking about a family member, but rather someone you know, someone important to you, someone you care about. Just not related by blood or marriage. That’s the caveat for this story.
I’m faced with this situation now. My darling neighbor, Dennis Carolin, is in the final chapter in his struggle with ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, unofficially named after the man whose career and life as one of the great baseball players of the era was cut short after he was diagnosed with this 100% fatal neuro-muscular disease. Lou Gehrig lived just two years from that time until his death in 1941. Nearly 80 years later, not much has changed. Treatment may — and I stress the word “may” — make the progression somewhat less dreadful, but the end result is the same: death within five years for most variations of this condition.
Dennis, who will never become world-famous or have a disease named after him, has been sustained through this ordeal by the love and devotion of Tracie, his wife of 32 years, and Austyn and Colby, their grown children.
Dennis was born and raised in San Antonio, not far from where he now lives. Tracie, from Augusta, Maine, still has strong roots in that area, so the Carolins lived mostly in the Northeast during the school years. They returned to Texas in 2013 when Dennis, now 54, became VP for Finance with SWBC, a privately owned financial services and insurance company. He was a workaholic. His daily schedule was legendary: To the office by 6 AM, returning home around 8 PM. Weekends were no excuse not to work. Dennis was an exacting professional who expected his staff to produce quality work, but he never asked anyone to do anything that he had not already done. Sometimes when executives climb the corporate ladder, they leave fellow employees behind. Not Dennis; I think his associates and those who worked for him see him as a reason for their success.
By the time we met them, Dennis and Tracie were empty nesters. When they weren’t working, they were traveling. As a result, our friendship developed slowly. Clearly, the Carolins were much younger than my late husband and I, so I wasn’t sure we would ever be more than “Hi, how are you?” acquaintances. However, one Sunday afternoon in May 2015, I invited them for drinks. This gave us a chance to…