‘Smiles Through the Mist’ is a caregiver’s response to his wife’s Alzheimer’s

When Paul Johnson’s wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, his easy days of retirement came to an end. For six years, his primary focus was that of Helene’s caregiver.

Johnson recounts his experiences in “Smiles Through the Mist: A Journey of No Return” (Infinity Publishing), noting that this job was nothing like his former career; there are no written rules and it doesn’t offer regular work hours, vacation or time off.

Smiles through mist

“I was exhausted,” Johnson recalls. “Slept maybe three hours a night. It has profoundly changed the way I look at the world.”

Helene passed away May 20, 2017, at age 75. “I still have an emptiness that haunts me daily,” he says.

He is now trying to find his new normal. “I loved life, travel, dancing, jokes and fun with her.” He says he only started sleeping normally again last month.

Johnson, who lives in Cary, has started a second book about what happens to a caregiver once the ordeal ends. “Most has not happened yet,” he says. “Stay tuned.”

New title

“Nell Cropsey and Jim Wilcox: The Chill of Destiny” (CreateSpace) by William E. Dunstan is a true story of romance and murder in Elizabeth City in the years after the Civil War. Nell Cropsey was from a wealthy Brooklyn family. She moved to Elizabeth City and began seeing local man Jim Wilcox. When Cropsey’s body was found floating in the Pasquotank River, Wilcox was arrested and charged with her murder. He was found guilty but eventually pardoned by Gov. Thomas Bickett. He maintained his innocence until his death. Dunstan is a visiting scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

For writers

Registration is open for the North Carolina Writers’ Network 2018 Spring Conference. The daylong event will be held April 21 at UNC-Greensboro. Author Jill McCorkle, 2018 N.C. Literary Hall of Fame inductee and Hillsborough resident, will give the keynote address. For information, visit

Registration is open for Write Now! 2018, a one-day conference for fiction and nonfiction writers sponsored by the Triangle Association of Freelancers. The event will take place April 28 at the McKimmon Conference and Training Center in Raleigh. For information, visit


Asheville author Elizabeth Kostova talks about “The Shadow Land” (Ballantine Books) at 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, and 5 p.m. Thursday, March 1, on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch. “The Shadow Land” takes readers to Bulgaria, where a young North Carolina mountain woman is hoping to recover from the loss of her beloved brother but unwittingly finds herself embroiled in a dangerous mystery.

Triangle-area authors: We want to hear about your new book. Send information to As space permits, we will mention self-published books by local authors that are for sale on commercial sites.