A Change In Her Gait

Monday was our fifth anniversary. We’ve gone to the same place every year- same routine, same time, same smells, same faces. I remember the first visit in 2011 most vividly. Not simply because it was the first time, but because it was different. It’s like going to Disney World every year for a decade. The only one that you remember is the one that it rains all day, or your brother gets kicked off of a ride for trying to punch Goofy’s nose off, or you get chosen as the crowd representative for a highlight show- you remember that. I also remember this past Monday pretty well- those four visits in between, however, all run together.

That first visit was surreal. That’s how I remember it. The Doctor looked at Tiffanni and within five minutes made his diagnosis. Five minutes. I could hear it in his voice from the second that he shook her hand. “Squeeze,” he said. “Hmm.” The difference between a “Hmph” and a “Hmm” is all in the tone. “Hmph” has a distasteful snide sound to it, but “Hmm” carries an inevitability that is easy to recognize if you’re listening for it. I’m sure that my subconscious knew what he would say, I mean you can’t watch the changes for a year and not take note, but I was shocked all the same.

“Uh oh, I hear the change in your gait,” we were greeted with as we made our way down the hall for the sixth time. Hmph. So that’s all that represents the last year of our livesThe change in her gate. We sat in the same two chairs across the same desk in front of the same doctor. His back to four bookshelves of medical journals, family pictures, med school textbooks, and a candle. There was plenty of time to appraise the contents of the sterile shelves while he skimmed through five years worth of scribbled notes to himself. I sat there readjusting my posture every few seconds, wondering if he had a made a note of her gait from last year.

The summation of the last year of our lives is the size of Tiffanni’s gait. A smaller, wobbly, slower step, she leans against me more now, especially going up stairs. He has no idea how I’ve fought getting a wheelchair all year. We went to Six Flags at the end of last summer and took a wheelchair. My kids cried to themselves when they saw her in it for the first time. I could have done better preparing them, but what do you say? It’s less about what to declare and more about how to answer when the questions come. So, I’ve fought it. Once you sit in a wheelchair, you never get out of it again. Ever.

Her stride. She uses it to stumble down sloped aisles to take her place in church now. She lays sprawled out in an entire pew, just me and her, sometimes her and my parents or her parents. Right in front of the side of the stage where she used to sing. Last fall I found a cassette tape of her and her best friend Candy singing with her music minister Ben. They recorded a full album of worship songs out in Texas in the early 90’s. I came across a box of them packing for our move, a whole box, and pulled out three before I tossed the rest out. They were stocking stuffers for Addy, Car, and Brayden this Christmas. “Your mom used to be the greatest singer. I thought you’d want to hear her and somehow unearthed these while we were packing!” Santa came through.

Her traipse. It’s the closest thing to a skip in her step that I can find when I’m taking her to get into a pool. She loves the pool. We discovered it this year, the only thing that calms her and stills her body. She sweats through every month, burns through every calorie, including the 1100 calorie peanut butter milkshake that my mom makes for her every afternoon as a “snack”. It was our quick fix when we couldn’t keep up with her weight-loss this winter. At best we’ve stabilized it. She can’t eat enough food to compensate for the energy that she burns as she moves erratically all day. Lying, sitting, standing, there’s no reprieve anymore. And then we found the water. She now asks to swim everyday, so we load up the car as often as we can and find a pool, lake, creek, ocean. Anything for a reprieve.

So much taken, not a lot given. Yes. It’s been a full year of change. Not just for her, but for the kids, and me, and my parents, and her parents, and everyone that is around her. This, at times, mindnumbingly slow lumber, and at other times, barreling gallop has been anything but stagnation.

So yeah Doc. There seems to have been a change in her gait. We’ll see you next year.


19 Comments for “A Change In Her Gait”


As hard as it gets you keep on putting one foot in front of the other. My heart hurts for Tiff, (I have serious back troubles) I know the things she wants to do and cannot, how heartbreaking to see someone else taking your girls to get their first make up, hi heels, prom dresses. Those sweet babies having to see their mom in the wheel chair. How sad for them and the many changes they are being forced to accept at such a young age. She also probably think that she is a burden to all of you. And you, Jeremy what an awesome husband, dad, son, pastor you are. How you juggle all these many responsibilities and still wear a smile, have compassion for others, I do not know. I pray that one day when you walk into the Dr’s office he will say, She, is HEALED.
God bless you and supply your every need.
Blessings to you and yours

Janet Smith


We had friends in Texas whose daughter was diagnosed with severe scoliosis. The doctor wrote them a prescription so they could put in a pool for her daily exercise. Is this something ya’ll might have talked about?

Love each and every one of you!

Carrington Glover


Come swim in Weatherly pool any time. I use to attend the church for years and all of my children have attended the school. The youngest affectionately known as “the teen” has done camp and children’s church there with you guys. The Sunday I “assumed” Tiff was dealing with this was my last Sunday coming. I’m an empath. I could not bear to watch her be attached with this condition. I’m Terita’s niece. You and your family are MORE than welcome to come swim with us ANY TIME. The “teen” is usually home daily

Judy Smith


I’m sure the change in her gait as she goes through the many gates in her life is that doctor’s way of noting the movement of MS through the body. I remember when my cousin went through all the stages from dragging one of his feet slightly when he would come to pick up his daughter from her piano lessons; then there was adding the cane to aid him as he continued to walk as the limp continued to be a true drag as he moved; that was followed by going to their house to visit more often because he just didn’t even try to get in and out of a house with steep steps front and back because he was rolling rather than walking. Then I remember the Christmas when he shared with my mother the message she had been awaiting for so many years. He shared testimony of his salvation. My mother literally floated from Midfield back to Hueytown that afternoon when we left their house. Soon he really continued to enjoy life as he did the silly thing he had always enjoyed–watched Three Stooges, Marx Brothers, and other old corny comedies on tv. When the live action was all watched, he reverted farther back in our childhood to enjoy cartoons. I remember that he reflected many times on how much he loved his wife and was glad that there was one bonus from the horrible disease–Pat and Sam enjoyed each other’s company more than most couples they knew because he was always at home and she there with him.

Christine Gustafson


I don’t know how to say anything meaningful here. Just wanted you to know I am here. I am reading. I am listenig. I am praying. So thankful for the beautiful family you have around you and for the body of Christ’s participation in holding you all up. “The eternal God is our refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Much love.

cindy Herschberg


I am struggling to find the words to express how I sorry I am that Tiff, you and your families have to endure and go through all of this. I understand the gait thing as I have been back and forth to neurologists for years for petite mahl and grand mahl seizures . I can empathize with a body that has a mind of its own . I dont deal with that any more praise the Lord he healed me of that. I struggle with other stuff now and I have lost a lot of what once made me , me if that makes sense. but I am thankful for what I am able to do. I am praying for you all ! You both are dear to me more than you know. It hurts me deep inside to know that you both are going through this but I know that the Lord is with you and that is what brings me comfort . God bless

Wanda Cunningham


Thank you for all you do for your family and church we all love you and will be praying for all of you


My first day at work as a pastor at Kingwood Church was the day she was born- Dec. 13, 1977. I think of that when I see her now. Her beautiful eyes are the same.


Thank you for writing through all of this, Jeremy. For the few, short minutes that we scroll across your heartfelt words, we are right there with you in the experience. And, although you and Tiff don’t have the luxury of escape at the end of the article as we do, it does help us to remember to pray for your family as you travel this journey. You are very courageous, even if you don’t feel like it. God bless all of you.

Judy Smith


You really expressed all the feelings so many of us have as we read Jeremy’s articles and as we come into situations ourselves that don’t have the “happy endings” that we would like to see. We are, of course, reading the words of a young man whose comments are written by a man of strong faith whom I’ve been privileged to call my friend since he was a teenager and I—– Well, let’s just say was older. Love you, Jeremy and Tiff. Keep your writing going.

Missy Holcombe


As I watch the changes that Alzheimer’s brings to Dalwyn’s mind and body, I often think of your journey. Both take so much from you and leave so very little behind, but my heart truly breaks for those who, unlike Tiffani and Dalwyn, are unloved and alone….the first thing God saw that was not good. We love you and your family!!



Oh how I love the man you have become. I know Tiff loves you so for the way you are daily there for her. Learning and doing every day, day in and day out. Christ holds both of you in the shadow of His wings. Your blog is amazing! Prayers for all of you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: