Book publisher Willa Robinson talks about her new book, taking care of her husband and adjusting to new challenges
“For the last year, I’ve been driving him because he can’t drive anymore,” said Willa Robinson about her husband, Vernon. “That is the only thing he looks forward to every Thursday—rain or shine.”
Robinson has been driving her husband on his distribution route ever since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Robinson was the L.A. Watts Times advertising director for nine-and-a-half years and Vernon has distributed the paper throughout the San Fernando Valley and Pasadena for the past 16 years. Now she makes sure he keeps his distribution duties, a job he is still devoted to.
“Maybe nine months before the diagnosis… I started seeing little signs,” said Robinson.
These signs were familiar to Robinson, who had experienced them with her mother who also had Alzheimer’s. The disease also runs in Vernon’s family, as his father also had Alzheimer’s disease. She told their family doctor that her husband needed to be tested for the disease, as all the warning signs were present.
“Usually what goes first is the short-term memory and repeating the same questions,” said Robinson. “It’s just repeating the same thing over and over again because he’s forgotten that he asked that same question a few minutes ago.”
Robinson also said that a deterioration of understanding comes later along with the misplacement of things. Even though his memory may be fading, Robinson says some things remain.
“My husband is still, at this point, he is very knowledgeable of what’s going on but he just may not remember, or quite understand but the personality is still there,” said Robinson. “My husband is a very witty person—so the wit is still there too and it’s comical, so some things we can laugh about.”
Robinson, founder and publisher of Knowledge Power Books, an independent publishing company located in Valencia, turned her passion into a positive outlet. She decided to write a book dedicated to Vernon entitled, “52 Ways to Love My Man”. The book was an idea Robinson had in the early 90s when she was sick with an illness. She wasn’t sure if she was going to survive but she fully recovered after undergoing two medical procedures.
“[Vernon] took such good care of me, so I wanted to show him how much I really appreciated it,” said Robinson.
A book inspired her to write down all the good things about her husband. In 1993, for Christmas, she wrote “10 Good Things About Vernon Robinson,” which she had framed for him. On the eve of their 51st wedding anniversary, Robinson wanted to do a similar tribute to her husband, this time asking family and friends to contribute. Vernon would be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s soon after.
“It took me a while to get back to writing, so I had it completed for the 52 anniversary,” said Robinson.
“52 Ways to Love My Man” is a romantic love story consisting of 26 good things Robinson adores about Vernon and 26 good things his family and close friends love about him. Having been married for 52 years, Robinson is frequently asked to share their secret to longevity with their marriage. She included within the book successful marriage tips from couples married twenty-five years or longer. Also, included is a section about Alzheimer’s disease, with a percentage of the proceeds from the book being donated to the Alzheimer’s Association to help find a cure for this malicious disease.
Robinson shared that one of the important things to remember about taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s is to not take things personal, because in many ways, you’re dealing with a stranger. She also stressed taking personal time for yourself and getting away from the situation once and while. Finally, Robinson stated the importance of getting as much information as possible.
“First-of-all, learn as much about the disease as you possibly can because it’s so different from anything else,” said Robinson. “You’re losing that person right there in front of you daily.”
She continued, “Getting into a support group and I’m helping to raise funds for Alzheimer’s disease, for the studies… [and] the medications.
Robinson added, “That’s another thing, being knowledgeable about the different medications and like with anything else, the side effects as well and supporting others that are suffering with it too.”
Robinson also suggested to those dealing with a loved one with Alzheimer’s to learn how to become a caretaker. She said the key is to be supportive and to learn how to handle the situation while adjusting to a new normal.
“52 Ways to Love My Man” is available at www.knowledgepowerinc.com, amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com