A mum has revealed her heartbreaking explanation to her daughter with Down’s syndrome whose husband of 23 years is battling dementia.
Linda Martin’s daughter Maryanne Pilling, now 47, married the love of her life Tommy Pilling, who also has Down’s syndrome, in July 1995.
Nearly a quarter of a century on, the couple remain happily married, sharing kisses and cuddles and making incredible memories every day.
But sadly, in recent years, Tommy, 60, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – and continues to display early signs of it.
He is getting more forgetful, while it is becoming harder for him to speak and be understood by those who aren’t close to him.
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His mum-in-law Linda explained what she and other loved ones have told Maryanne about his condition and what will happen in the future.
"At the moment, we just say that Tommy is getting older and he forgets things, and he needs a bit more care," she said in a new podcast.
"And that is enough for Maryanne to deal with at the moment. We go on a day -to-day basis. So at this moment, baby steps," she added.
Linda spoke out about her daughter and son-in-law on Jo Piazza’s Committed Podcast as they prepare to celebrate 23 years of marriage.
The couple tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony at a church in Shoeburyness, Essex, with Maryanne dressed in a Cinderella-style gown.
More than two decades on, Maryanne, who lives with Tommy in Southend-on-Sea, tells her husband she loves him three times a day.
And whenever she speaks of him to others, her face lights up.
As well as sharing tender embraces, the inspirational couple also go out to concerts, play football, laugh with loved ones and cook together.
However, recently, Tommy has been getting more and more forgetful.
Speaking in the podcast, host Jo mentioned his "early signs of Alzheimer’s" and asked Linda whether she had spoken with her daughter about "what happens when Tommy’s gone".
The mum, who also lives in Southend-on-Sea, replied: "No, because I have to be very careful how I deal with things like that with Maryanne.
"Because when she was 12 her brother was killed and I have to be very careful how I approach things as far as that is concerned."
Maryanne and Tommy’s love has defied both the odds and critics.
While some have called Linda a ‘bad mother’ for allowing her daughter to get married, others have deemed the couple’s love "disgusting".
But as far as Linda is concerned, the fact her daughter has found somebody to love is the "best thing" she could have ever wished for.
She said: "I wish I could have found a love like it in my life – because it’s very honest, it’s very true and it really is a beautiful thing."
Maryanne and Tommy’s "fairytale" relationship began 28 years ago.
The couple, who share a passion for cooking, met through "fate" in 1990 while working in a local training centre for people with disabilities.
At the time, Maryanne was 19 – 13 years younger than Tommy. But from the moment they met, they shared an incredible connection.
When asked what she thought of her first encounter with her future husband, Maryanne told Jo: "That I love him. Just true love."
It wasn’t long after that Maryanne brought Tommy home to meet her family. She giggled happily as she proudly introduced him.
Although Tommy was fairly quiet, Maryanne soon brought him out of his shell. And a year after they met, things became very serious.
Deciding he wished to propose to his beloved girlfriend, a besotted Tommy bought a plastic ring for her from a vending machine.
He then gave it to Maryanne, who was "elated". She excitedly showed her mum the ring, saying Tommy "wants us to get engaged".
Linda, who admitted her first thought was "good God", sat down with her daughter and Tommy and asked them what they wanted.
In response, the couple said they wished to marry each other.
Linda then took the pair to get a proper ring and for the next four years, they remained engaged, getting to know each other properly.
In mid-July 1995, they finally tied the knot in a "perfect’ ceremony, surrounded by hundreds of family and friends, and "so much love".
Linda said her daughter looked "stunning" in her white dress, tiara and long veil, while Tommy donned a made-to-measure suit.
For their honeymoon, the couple stayed in a seafront hotel, according to the podcast, ‘Love Me Tender’, which was released last week.
Afterwards, Tommy moved into Maryanne’s family home.
However, amid the post-wedding bliss, Linda received cruel messages telling her that she shouldn’t have allowed her daughter to get married.
But she told Jo: "For me as a mother, I would have felt I’d failed her if I hadn’t acknowledged the fact that she was in love with somebody."
Maryanne and Tommy later moved into their own flat.
Today, they continue to live independently there, next door to both of their mums and across the road from Maryanne’s sister, Lindi.
And despite needing assistance from their loved ones with most aspects of their life, including cooking and washing, they manage "superbly".
They go out on dates and day trips and, recently, Tommy celebrated his 60th birthday with a huge party. As always, his wife was by his side.
Pictures of the happy pair – who were thought to be the first couple with Down’s syndrome to wed in 1995 – are regularly posted online.
A Facebook page, set up by Lindi, follows Maryanne and Tommy’s romance and has amassed more than 40,000 followers.
A post on the ‘Maryanne and Tommy’ page reveals that the couple renewed their wedding vows 13 years ago – then again three years ago.
It adds: "They have now been together for 28 years, since Maryanne was 19 years of age. Tommy is 13 years older than Maryanne and he recently celebrated turning 60! On World Down Syndrome day too!
"Their marriage is like a fairytale and they are the most blissfully happy couple that I know. I think most of us could learn a thing or two from them!
"When they got engaged 25 years ago many many people doubted them, said it was disgusting and they shouldn’t be allowed to get married, they also said that it would never work.
"But I like to say they are still as happy as they were 28 years ago when they first met. This page shows their love for one another quite clearly, it shows how happy they are, how much they adore each other and it proves to all the doubters that anything is possible with love."
In a previous Facebook post, in late 2014, Lindi had revealed the "terrible" news that Tommy was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Following the bombshell, the couple’s loved ones took them on a trip to Graceland in Tennessee, US, to visit Elvis Presley’s home.
Lindi said this was Tommy’s "life-long" dream.
Mirror Online was given permission to share the stunning pictures of Maryanne and Tommy as they mark 23 years of marriage.
- To follow Maryanne and Tommy’s love story on Facebook, click here . To listen to the Committed podcast, click here
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