All About Multiple Sclerosis

More MS news articles for November 2002

Laughter helps couple deal with problems big and little

Thursday, November 28, 2002
By Jenny Kopaceski
The Star Press

For decades, a local couple have dealt with a serious physical illness using their own method of coping - laughter.

Bernadette Grill and her husband, Dick, were married in December 1967. In 1974, they were shocked to discover Bernadette had multiple sclerosis, a neurological disorder affecting a nervous system.

In 29 years of living with the disease, Bernadette has experienced paralysis of her right arm and partial blindness in one eye. Although those symptoms of MS have since disappeared, Bernadette said, "When I lose something now, it tends not to come back."

Because Bernadette is restricted to a wheelchair or scooter most of the time, Dick readily takes on extra responsibilities around the house, including laundry, grocery shopping, and driving Bernadette to doctor appointments. Each morning, he takes a plate down from the cabinet for her lunch because she cannot reach high places.

To remain positive about Bernadette's health, the Grills try to find humor in life's lesser setbacks. Recently, during the couple's Saturday night tradition of watching the Hoosier Millionaire show, Dick accidentally "blew up" the popcorn machine and set the countertop on fire.

"There isn't a day that goes by that we don't laugh," Dick said.

"That man has even scraped pancake batter off the walls - it just got away from me," Bernadette added with a laugh.

Bernadette wrote a letter to The Star Press this month publicly thanking her spouse for "filling in the gaps" in the household whenever he is needed.

"He certainly lived up to our vow 'for better or worse' ..." Bernadette wrote in her letter. "Dick has a heart of gold and rarely refuses to help anyone when asked and somehow always manages to have a smile on his face. I honestly don't know how I would function without him, and I am so blessed that he has made me a part of his life. I thank you, Dick."

Dick, who described the letter as "beautiful," said he felt lucky to have Bernadette as his life partner. He admires her kindness and willingness to share.

"I would like to say 'thank you' to her for being my wife - and putting up with me," he said, "Sometimes it's not easy, but we do manage to get through it. It would be harder if we were doing it alone."

The couple met in Cleveland, Ohio, where Dick was Bernadette's choir director at Land of Angels Church. After dating for 2 years, they married and moved to Muncie, where Dick had accepted the job of director of music for St. Mary's Catholic Church. He has remained at the job for 30 years.

"He is a very gentle, caring person," said Ed O'Korn, choir member and Dick's friend of 30 years. "He supports and enhances the liturgy of the mass with his selection of music."

However trying these days might be, Dick and Bernadette lean on each other with great confidence.

"We were married for the long run," Dick said. "Whatever comes up, we'll get through it together. That's the important thing."

"We balance each other out," Bernadette added. "One handles one thing, and the other handles something else - between the two of us, we get the job done."

Contact news reporter Jenny Kopaceski at 213-5825.

More about the Grills:

Married: December 1967.

Children: Rick, 33, of New Castle.

Grandchildren: two grandsons, ages 5 and 12.

Time together: The couple enjoy watching the game show Jeopardy.

What they value: "Faith is a big stabilizing factor, and we have wonderful friends and family."

Copyright 2002 The Star Press