- Associated Press - Saturday, August 22, 2015

PROVO, Utah (AP) - Eighteen years ago, Filomena and Jay Bown met on a dance floor.

“It was a beautiful western waltz,” Filomena recalled of the moment.

They both loved to dance. The start to their relationship was filled with months of LDS Church firesides, singles activities and dances together, all leading up to their first date, a mountaintop picnic.

Though Jay was 79 at the time, he hiked the entire way with the picnic basket. With his spry nature and active lifestyle, their 26-year age difference was unrecognizable to Filomena.

“Neither of us were looking for a mate, but a companion to enjoy our life with,” Filomena said.

After months of dating, Jay was dropping off Filomena at her home when she asked him about one day getting married. He dropped her off and told her to wait for him to return.

Minutes later, he came back toting a single red rose and asked her to marry him.

Filomena points to a dried rose hanging on the wall of their Orem home.

“Is that the same one?” asks Jay.

Filomena nods in response.

“I didn’t know she kept it all this time,” he responds, with a smile upon his face.

The two have since been married for 16 years.

“When we first married, I told him if you require a lot of female attention, I’m not the woman for you,” Filomena said.

As the years went by, Jay’s active lifestyle began to slow, and his health started to decline. It was a process neither fully recognized until three years ago.

On a cold December night, Jay was driving back to Orem alone from southern Utah County when he became confused. After a police call from two worried strangers about his driving, the police pulled Jay over in Tooele County.

When he told them he was looking for Orem, they decided to take him to the hospital to be checked over. Jay was diagnosed with the early stages of dementia.

Little by little, Filomena began to take on more responsibility for her husband. A year after the diagnosis, Jay decided it best that he not renew his driver’s license. Filomena became his full-time driver. One year later, she also became the full time head of household.

For both of them, the beginning stages of the new caretaker relationship was difficult.

“When he needed things, it was hard for him to ask, and sometimes it was hard for me to accept that he couldn’t do it on his own,” Filomena says.

As the two get ready for a wedding reception, Filomena lets him attempt to shave before correcting his missed whiskers and helping him comb his hair. She assists him in putting on a clean, white shirt before walking away to let him snap up the buttons himself and tighten his bolo tie.

“I try to let him do as much as he can on his own,” she says. “Everyone has the right to some dignity.”

Jay too, feels the struggle brought on by his dementia.

“I have been active my whole life,” he said. “It is hard being confined.”

Despite his health, he is grateful for Filomena, not knowing what he would do without her.

Filomena has learned that to take care of someone else, you must first take care of yourself. She has an aide who comes in three times a week to assist Jay and give her some time to do the things she wants to do. She enjoys driving to visit her grandchildren and taking walks around the neighborhood.

Though their relationship has changed, both will tell you they have lived a good life together.

“He is the most honest man I have ever met,” she says about her husband. “He has always been Jay from day one, and he is still that way.”

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