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Kim Campbell recalls the day her husband, Glen Campbell, impulsively tried to buy a huge bottle of Pepto-Bismol in a drugstore. She stopped him, only to learn later that he intended it as a romantic gift for her and was drawn to its bright-pink hue.
"It broke my heart when I realized I had robbed him of the opportunity to do something meaningful,” she says. “That was so precious. I want people to make sure they take the time to listen to someone with dementia. Don't be dismissive and think they don't know what they're doing. There might be something beautiful behind the way their brain is working.”
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Kim, 61, was the country superstar's wife for 34 years until his death, in 2017, at age 81, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. She examines her life, their marriage and his struggles with alcoholism and dementia in her new autobiography, Gentle on My Mind: In Sickness and in Health with Glen Campbell, which serves as a celebration of her husband's storied career, as well as a love story, a harrowing account of living with an addict and a guide for caregivers.
"My main message is that you can't do it alone,” Kim says, conceding that she was slow to learn that lesson.
Kim Woollen, raised in rural North Carolina, was 22 and a Rockette at New York's Radio City Music Hall when she met the 45-year-old music legend on a blind date, in 1981. She knew little about Campbell, the Arkansas native who shot to fame on the strength of such classics as “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Southern Nights.” She found him handsome, sweet and funny. Initially charming, he was drunk by the end of the evening, she writes, but Kim was smitten and determined to give him a chance. She became his fourth wife in late 1982.
She describes a fairytale life of romance, wealth, travel and celebrities. Glen was a generous, doting and fun-loving partner until he hit the booze or snorted cocaine. Naive and ill-equipped to handle such a crisis, Kim relied on her faith to cope.
"On our first date, when the waiter brought food to the table, Glen bowed his head and said a prayer,” Kim recalls. “I had faith, and I felt he had a basis of faith to work with. I believed God would help him overcome this. I fell in love with the man and saw drinking as the obstacle. I had to grow up really quick so that I could support him and help him function and to overcome the denial. That was the hardest thing he faced. Glen was obnoxious and mean-spirited and angry when he was drinking, and he did not remember any of it the next day."
Kim resisted leaving. “I loved him; that's the main reason I stayed,” she explains. “He was such a good man when he wasn't drinking, and I didn't want to allow the drinking to destroy him. I knew if I left, he would die. But when I had a baby, that's when I said, ‘I'm not going to raise a child like this. I can't do this anymore.’ I decided to reach out for help."