RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Time again for StoryCorps. This traveling oral history project records Americans talking to each other about their lives.
Today, the story of Jo Ann and Bob Chew. They married late in life, both for the second time. He is 70 years old. She is 82 and now has early stage Alzheimer's. Despite her illness, their relationship endures. Here, Jo Ann recalls when she first knew she wanted to be a wife.
JO ANN CHEW: My father said if he sent me to college, then I could choose one of two things. He said, you can choose home ec because I know you'll be somebody's wife. You're too cute not to be somebody's wife. Or number two, I could take up a secretarial course, because, you know, at that time there weren't a lot of things that women did. So I decided home ec was the way to go. I wanted to be somebody's wife.
BOB CHEW: Are you still cooking today?
ANN CHEW: Not today. I have been up to this point. But I have Alzheimer's, beginning of it, so I hear. And my doctor told me he did not want me to cook, and that was music to my ears.
ANN CHEW: Oh. Boy, who's doing all the cooking?
ANN CHEW: This fellow across from me here. He's turned out to be quite a professional, too.
ANN CHEW: So how did we meet?
ANN CHEW: Somehow we got together, and I don't even remember how it was. I'm trying to think. I bet you remember.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
ANN CHEW: Yeah. I remember. I'm shocked that you don't remember.
ANN CHEW: Oh, I do.
ANN CHEW: Remember the Christmas parties?
ANN CHEW: Oh, yeah. And that's where we really got to know one another, wasn't it? My heart began to beat a little faster after quite a few months. And I think yours did, too. And we decided we want to spend the rest of our lives together and we got married.
ANN CHEW: Had you thought about remarrying?
ANN CHEW: No. No. No. No. No. No.
ANN CHEW: Why not?
ANN CHEW: I just thought I was too old.
ANN CHEW: How old were you?
ANN CHEW: Oh, I've got to think. How old was I? How old was I when we got married? Seventy. And I kept trying to dissuade you from marrying me because I was older than you were. And I knew that there would come a time when I would be a little old lady and you would still have all the marks of 10-year younger man. So, here we are, still together and still 10 years older.
ANN CHEW: Does that bother you today?
ANN CHEW: No. It bothers me that I'm as I am because I don't want to be a burden.
ANN CHEW: You think you're a burden?
ANN CHEW: Not really. Because you need someone to take care of, don't you?
ANN CHEW: That's what I tell you.
ANN CHEW: I know.
ANN CHEW: The diagnosis?
ANN CHEW: It's not pretty. No.
ANN CHEW: Do you feel sorry for yourself today?
ANN CHEW: A little bit. A little bit. Big bit.
ANN CHEW: A big bit?
ANN CHEW: I'm sad.
ANN CHEW: What are the things that are making you sad?
ANN CHEW: Just not having control of everything, on my thoughts and my actions. And I don't think it's fair to you, either.
ANN CHEW: You know I want to take care of you, don't you?
ANN CHEW: I do know that. But you could have some cute little chick that you could be running around with, 10 years younger.
ANN CHEW: I know. But I have my princess right now.
ANN CHEW: Oh, you're wonderful.
ANN CHEW: How would you say the diagnosis of your Alzheimer's has affected us in our life?
ANN CHEW: Outside of all the feelings I have stored up, we still do the same things we did before, and we still can go to dances and we can do things. But I don't want to be an ugly lady that's not in her head.
ANN CHEW: You'll never be an ugly lady, sweetie.
ANN CHEW: I just somehow didn't think that this was going to be my way out. And I still hope that it's not going to be.
ANN CHEW: You know I still love you, right? More than ever.
ANN CHEW: I know.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
MONTAGNE: Jo Ann Chew and her husband Bob in Little Rock, Arkansas. Their conversation and all StoryCorps recordings are archived at the Library of Congress. Learn how you can record an interview at npr.org.