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Projects editor

Bella was raised a Catholic, and I went to Quaker meetings as a child in Pennsylvania.

For a time, when our kids were little, we went to Faith Tabernacle church in Glens Falls. Later, we went to the Unitarian Universalist meetings for a few years, but we haven’t gone to any sort of church for about 10 years.

I have always felt a joy and wonder at our beautiful planet and the life on it. Sometimes — on a cool summer evening, for instance, when dusk is gathering beside the buildings but clouds still hover in a blue sky — I feel an inexpressible awe.

I don’t know what Bella feels as the days get shorter. This may be the hardest phase of Alzheimer’s — when she is still sensitive to what is happening, but just as one season moves imperceptibly into the next, the disease, too, is progressing.

Alzheimer’s disease seems to contract the world around the person who has it. Gradually, limits are pulled in, like a net.

One of the first things that happened, even before her diagnosis about a year and a half ago, was that Bella got lost trying to get to our daughter’s house in Charlestown, outside Boston, even though she had driven there before.

Now she can get lost a lot closer to home, and she wouldn’t drive by herself to another state.

Nonetheless, she lets Pepper, our dog, out from the lawn to leap into her car, and they drive all over Queensbury and beyond, exploring and getting lost while Pepper barks, mad with joy, in the backseat.

Every day, she has to take Pepper for a walk around the neighborhood, letting Pepper lead the way, growling at other dogs, sniffing noses through the fence with her friend on Third Street.

Bella talks to her along the way, and Pepper looks back with her soft brown eyes.

I wonder about the time Bella spends at home, in her chair in the family room, with the news on TV, playing games on her iPad.

I wonder about her cheerfulness when I’m around and whether it is an effort not to burden me.

I wonder how I should answer when she asks whether she is getting worse. We started with the understanding I would be honest, but there are times I would rather be kind.

Many people — Bella included — have said positive things about the way we are chronicling this disease.

But I find myself hoping she won’t read the columns. Once, she was quiet afterward.

“It’s sad,” she said.

She insists on naming all the things that aren’t sad and saying how fortunate we are.

“I have a terminal disease. But so does everyone, in a way,” she says.

Looking into the abyss, she smiles. I have to smile too.

Bella became disillusioned with the Catholic Church years ago. I never have felt in any church the peace and the wonder I often feel in stepping outside.

We find comfort, too, in each other. Questions that get asked and answered more than once a day — “Isn’t he a good boy?” (as she pets our bunny); “Yes, he is.” — are the affirmations we make in the church of our understanding.

We acknowledge how good life has been and still is. Maybe it will end sooner than we hoped, but that, too, is part of the natural way of things — that, more than anything, adds to our appreciation of today.

Alzheimer's Chronicles with Bella Doolittle

Read The Post-Star's ongoing series looking at early onset Alzheimer's disease with Bella Doolittle and her husband, Projects Editor Will Doolittle.

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Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at



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