A portrait of Dawn and Tom Weimer hangs above the long-married couple's bed. The two were high school sweethearts who met while attending Fort Morgan High School on the plains of Colorado, and married shortly after Tom graduated from Colorado State University. Married in 1964, she was 21 and he was 20.
Tom embraces Dawn during a rare moment of ease for Dawn. Dawn was a successful sculptor and painter before having her abilities stripped away by Alzheimer's. Dawn has been suffering from Alzheimer's for nearly a decade and bares little resemblance to the Dawn well known and loved by many. The bookend in front of the two is a bust of Dawn's monument-sized bear sculpture on the University of Northern Colorado's campus.
Tom reflects during a visit to Dawn's old studio, filled with sculptures and artifacts from her career. The two rams to the right are the clay originals of her last sculpture, soon to be installed at the site of Colorado State University's football stadium. They have sat untouched for nine years.
Tom pauses while flipping through a book filled with Dawn's work. While she is best known for her bronze sculptures, she dabbled in a multitude of mediums. This is a self-portrait drawn in 1984, at the age of 41. She was diagnosed at 60 and is now 69.
The Weimer's bedroom is dotted with small keepsakes from their marriage. Tom reminisces while inspecting a Christmas ornament done by Dawn in 1998.
Dawn is to the point that she must be fed by Tom. In order to get Dawn to sit still long enough to be fed, Tom must strap her into a chair with a gait belt. Without the prospect of wandering off complicating her mind, she can usually chew and swallow without incident. Forgetting to swallow food and choking is a common cause of death in Alzheimer's patients.
Dawn wears a blank expression most of the time, common with most Alzheimer's patients. Now without the ability to talk, her wants are difficult to understand, often resulting in frustration for Dawn and Tom.
As the disease has progressed, Dawn has gotten more hostile. With her depleting size and weight she poses little physical threat to anybody. Tom has had time to get used to it, as expressed in his calm and patient demeanor while Dawn tugs aggressively at his shirt.
Dawn, as she often does, rubs the carpet vigorously. her caretaker, Agnes, finds this behavior odd for an Alzheimer's patient, and attributes it to Dawn's past as a sculptor.
Tom will often ask Dawn simple questions as she walks aimlessly through their home. Asking if she is hungry, or just if he can have a kiss, are a few examples. On occasion, Dawn still responds, though her answer can change within an instant.
Though Tom stays active outside the house, and he has immense trust in Dawn's volunteer caretaker, he still admits to feeling guilty and worried that Dawn may pass without him there.
On this Tuesday night Agnes was unable to come care for Dawn. Their son Heath has taken the reins for the night. Here Heath sits in the front room of the Weimer's home, now converted to a miniature gallery with many pieces Dawn has made. Heath's Christian faith is what keeps him as positive as possible about his mother's condition and her eventual passing.
Tom's only release from home-life comes on Tuesday nights, where he and a few friends are in a bowling league at Sweetheart Lanes in Loveland, Colo. Tom and Dawn used to bowl together often, but much like her sculpting, Dawn's worstening condition has caused her to lose the ability.
Dawn will often greet Tom as if she hasn't seen him for an extended period of time. While these moments bring a smile to Tom's face, they are often overshadowed by the constant reminder of her illness and it's effect in her cognitive and physical abilities.
A picture from Tom and Dawn's wedding sits on a dresser in their bedroom. Tom is somberly realistic about his wife's future. While hospice care is always at the back of his mind, he adamantly believes that she should spend her time in the most familiar place she has, even if she has little recollection her environment's significance.