My name is Jenny Lee, and I grew up in a small coal mining town in South Eastern Ohio, not to far from Wheeling, W.VA. I am the oldest of 6 siblings and I met my husband, Mike in May 1969, and we were married December 1969. I have been a homemaker, my hobbies are photography, genealogy, scrapbooking, canning, and I am learning to garden. Mike was hired onto the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He moved up through the ranks from Firefighter, paramedic, engineer, and captain. My husband and I have a strong faith and belief in Jesus, as our Lord and Savior.
Mike and I were the parents of 3 children, a son, Robert, and two daughters, Renee and Rebecca. Our girls were born with cystic fibrosis. As we traveled the road, we found our faith and trust in the Lord growing stronger. There will be times, I will share some of the girl’s writings, stories that allowed us to share Jesus with others, and showing us that through it all Jesus carried us. The trials we were faced with drew us closer together and in the worst of the worst moments we clung to each other, and to our Lord. We lost Renee 26 May 1995 at the age of 22 ½. Around April of 2004 we were told Rebecca probably had about 3 months left without a double lung transplant. And a few months prior to that I began to notice Mike was having some memory issues. Nothing major, or alarming, just an increase of having to help him find, wallet, keys, book, coffee, glasses, etc. and not the normal ‘where did I place’ whatever object – as we all find ourselves doing at times. But several times a day, stopping my activities to help him locate the misplaced item/s.
Mike also began to run into things on our property – we had 47 acres of land SE of Temecula, CA. and that necessitated having a tractor. Mike ran over a fence line, he hit the side of our sheet metal building on more than one occasion, he ran into a trailer, he misjudged an incline and punctured a hole in the tailgate of our new truck, and on and on it went.
Around May, 2004, Mike and I had a local doctor for our GP, he was in the town of Temecula, CA and one day when I was in for a check-up I mentioned to the doctor my concerns for my husbands memory, and his running into things – is there a way to check to see if he’s okay? The doctor assured me he could do a cognitive test and see if anything showed up. I told him, PLEASE do not let Mike know I asked about this, it would make him furious and I would suffer the consequences of him not trusting me. No worries assured the doctor. I can be discreet! HA.
The doctor totally threw me under the bus. We walked into the office and sat down, and the 1st thing the doctor said – “Your wife is worried about your mental state and if you’re losing your thinking and cognitive abilities.” Mike’s look at me was disbelief, hurt, and very pissed off! The doctor ran the cognitive test, said it wasn’t bad and sent us on our way. Mike and I got into the car, Mike turned to me with tears in his eyes and asked, “What the hell are you thinking? What the hell are you trying to do? If you ever pull a stunt like that against me again, we’re through!” (sigh)
In August 2004 Rebecca got a double lung transplant, and it was a most joyous occasion to think we were going to have her with us a few more years! At this time, Mike was a captain for a Haz-Mat unit, the largest in the U.S. He was at Station 43 in the City of Industry. There were times I would have to drive from our home near Temecula to the Fire Station to give Mike his wallet, or his fire department badge, or whatever else he needed.
As time went on I just watched Mike digress. This man, who used to do calculus with a slide rule, was having struggles with practical math – I didn’t say anything. In early 2007 Mike had an injury on his knee that required surgery and he was off work for quite a while, then after going back on the job for a few days, he injured the other knee, which didn’t require surgery, but did require him to be off more. At this point, Rebecca was going into massive rejection of the lung transplant and was in ICU at USC Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles. Mike stayed by Rebecca’s bedside as much as possible. He read the Scriptures to her, and we had a CD player in her room and we kept soft Christian music playing. It helped calm her ‘terrors’ and allowed Mike to take an occasional break. On Mike’s 60th birthday, we had to turn off life support for Rebecca. And 4 days later, it was Mike’s mandatory retirement from the fire department. The next 18 months were some of the hardest to wade through. We were raising our son’s 1st born, and he was almost 16, Spencer, and Mike, both went into a major depression!! As things spiraled down to a dull roar we began to discuss if we should stay in our home or try to sell. The housing market was beginning to boom and so we listed the house. Mike turned down EVERY offer! Then the market crashed and it ended up we gave the house back, moved into a rental and proceeded to make plans for ‘the rest of our lives’. Mike was doing okay, there were no major happenings and all seemed to be a bit better. We still had the issue of several times daily having to find wallet, keys, book, etc but there wasn’t much else going on.
Since Rebecca passed away on Mike’s birthday, I used that time to ‘steal’ him away and focus on him. We did local trips Palm Springs, San Diego, and in 2012 I planned a cruise to Alaska – But it began with driving from Southern California up through Las Vegas, up through Salt Lake City, and into Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to visit with our son. The next day we were to be in Seattle, at the cruise lines by 1 pm! Auto Club routed us so far around it was almost a 12 hour drive! And we didn’t get to enjoy the breakfast at the B&B we had stayed in. However, we got to the cruise line in time, and enjoyed our journey. After we got back to the lower 48, Robert called and asked us to move to Idaho to be Grandpa and Grandma to his babies! We basically had nothing left in California in the way of material items and our son took precedence over our friends. In February 2013 we began to look for a place to live in Idaho, and we made our move in October 2013. Moving was a terror. Mike refused to ever let me drive, and he wove all over the lanes, missed exits, fortunately missed other vehicles and got angry each time I got upset. Night driving was even worse and I began to have to act really tired, and grumpy to force him to stop for an evening. Driving in the rain was a nightmare to deal with and I ended up having to scream to convince him to stop for the night.
And now my journey continues.
Once we got to Coeur d’Alene we rented for a year, then found a place to purchase. Mike was doing sculpture in the basement, but he began to be a recluse. He didn’t want to go out, he didn’t want people to come in. It took a lot of badgering from me to be able to have any company – and yet, when they arrived he was pleasant and affable. Mike started talking about getting a place with less land, and single story, maybe a boat dock. So we tried to put the house on the market – our realtor wouldn’t!! Finally in September, he listed the house, but wouldn’t do open houses, would only promote in the local area, and by Thanksgiving time we had had only 1 person look at the place. We asked this person to cancel our listing, and we later found out he just let the listing expire.
In April 18, 2019 we put the house back on the market, with a different realtor, and the home sold in only 9 days. I was booked to go on a cruise with some girlfriends from May 1-8 and I thought I’d have to cancel, but Mike assured me all would be well and told me to go and have fun. That trip was a blast! When I got back though I was dropped into the middle of the frenzy of packing a 5500 square foot house so we could be out by the beginning of June. We also had to find another place to live! Again, the Lord provided. We looked at a house that had only been on the market 22 hours, we were one of multiple offers and we were the ones chosen to proceed with the purchase. Though the escrow close date was the middle of June, we agreed to let the sellers have until July 6 to move out.
While the selling and buying of homes was happening, I was also in the middle of winding up the plans and final payments for Mike and I for our 50th anniversary. We were flying to Honolulu, Hawaii the middle of September, staying there for 4 nights, catching a cruise ship, Soltice by Celebrity, on September 23, and cruising to Sydney, Australia. We would get to Sydney on October 11, visit there for 3 nights, then fly to Melbourne and meet up with a tour group from Go Ahead Tours and tour Australia and New Zealand. At the end of the tour, November 4th, we were then scheduled to go to a friend’s home and stay 10 days with them, fly to Fiji, spend 3 night there and back to Honolulu, before flying home. The cruise was fabulous! But we had a couple of incidences, the main one being: When our ship docked in Auckland, I went on shore to give an extra suitcase to my girlfriend’s husband. We were staying with them at the end of our tour. We were to head to Hobbiton via a cruise ship excursion. Mike was to go to the theatre to be with our group, and meet me at the bus. He didn’t remember what to do – he forgot where I went. He had me paged all over the ship, and several people were looking for me. We finally connected – long after the excursion bus had left, and he was in a panic and stumbling. It was cold in Auckland, and he didn’t have a jacket, or a camera, or anything with him. We went back on board, and he needed to sit down – as he was preparing to sit, he fell forward and hit his head on a table. I helped to get him upright and seated, and got him a cup of water. It took almost 15 minutes before he felt he could make it to our cabin. I told him I didn’t want to go into town, I wanted to rest. He said good, and laid down on the bed. He slept for 6 hours. He woke up, and was hungry, so we went to the buffet and had something small to eat, then back to our cabin. He laid down and slept more – about 4 more hours. He woke up and was hungry again, so back to the buffet for dinner and then back to the cabin again for the night. He slept the night through.
The next day, we docked at the Bay of Islands and went kayaking and the day was perfect! But he refused to go into town, just back to the ship and to lay down and rest.
We toured Australia & New Zealand. Mike wouldn’t be able to tell which way the group turned and he almost always turned the opposite direction. I would have to stay near the back of the group to watch him and when I saw him looking around ‘lost’ I would raise my arm and call his name “Mike, I’m right here”
We ended the tour in Auckland, and my girlfriend picked us up to take us to her home. Each day we had a plan to go somewhere or see something new. We flew to Christchurch, we went to the glow worm caves, and we went to Hobbiton. 2 days it rained, and we stayed in, by the end of day 5 Mike was more tired, more grumpy and finally said, “I want to go home.” so, we cancelled the rest of our trip and flew home 10 days early.