'Unwavering love' - Bobbette Shelton opens up about coping with husband Luton's tragedy
For Bobbette Shelton, life with husband, former Reggae Boy Luton Shelton, has been what she described as an adventure. But although there have been happy memories shared between the couple, she says that it has not all been just about the high life of being married to a footballer, especially since learning last July that he has developed Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease.
The matriarch of the Shelton home, Bobbette has been with Luton for 13 years and married for close to five. She remembers meeting him for the first time and immediately being drawn to him.
"We met at Gibson Relays in 2005," she said with a gleaming smile. "It was quite some time ago. I've always been a lover of track and field so any event of such, I'm there. He seemed shy, so reserved; and when I first saw him, he was there sitting in the corner, so it was just like love at first sight. I was drawn to his soul because he was so calming, like I knew this person a long time ago."
Luton spent most of his career playing in Europe, most notably at Sheffield United in England, Helsingborg IF in Sweden, Valerenga in Norway, Karabukspor in Turkey and the now defunct Volga Nizhny Novgorod in Russia. This meant that Bobbette had to be adjusting to life in new environments just the same as he did, and while many would see this as glitzy and glamorous, it had its difficulties.
"When he went to Sweden, I was there with him for a couple months," she shared. "We went to Norway and England. The only place that I haven't been was in Russia. I was scheduled to go but because of his injuries and everything, I didn't get to go. It's not always a bed of roses. It's not always happy. They (footballers) do have their moments, and because they're in the spotlight, there's always attention here and there. It has been challenging and not always as glamorous as people might think."
Shelton's condition has left him unable to speak or help himself around the house, as his muscles have been progressively degenerating. It means that Bobbette has had to be his primary caregiver, while taking care of their two young daughters as well. But she says that devoting all her time to his needs is no issue because he has always been her first true love and friend.
"My first serious relationship is with Luton," she said. "He has always been my friend, somebody whom I can always talk to. He's just all-rounded.
"When you make a vow," she said, before pausing to reflect, "those words are really powerful and you have to put meaning to those words, not just say them. I made a vow and through thick and thin, all those words, I have to stick by because no matter what, you need that support. If you don't have that support, there's no way you can go on. Once you have that support, there's always that person in the back of your mind to always push you. Sometimes, you may want to give up, but you always have to have that person in your corner to say you can do this. I'm here for him, I can say I'm his shoulder to lean on and I'm here.
"I'm basically the only one doing everything now. My day starts out really early, getting the children prepared for school, getting also prepared for his morning routine as well; come back home, preparing something for him to eat, it's just hectic for me, but I do manage. I do find the time to really manage all. I try to space out what I have to do, I'm like that. I don't really ask for help that much, I just try to manage that time and do what I need to do."
She said this does not really affect her having a social life outside their home as she has always kept her circle of friends small. This circle contains her mother and best friend, whom she said are women who both give her constant encouragement. Bobbette has also been encouraged by how emotive and responsive the Jamaican public has been since the family decided to make Luton's condition known.
"It has been an experience," she said. "It's so overwhelming, I can't even express in so many words how everybody has been affected by his story. I didn't even imagine we'd get such a reaction and such support and outpouring of love. It has been amazing.
"People from all over who don't really know him personally, just try to offer some assistance because they just want to help. He has contributed so much to Jamaica, in Europe, wherever he had played, he had impacted everyone so they're always just trying to lend their support in the best way they can. He has been really grateful for it.
"I've seen the responses on social media and in person. I didn't know that everywhere I went, people would recognise me so quickly and every time they see me, they're always giving me words of encouragement, always saying our family is in their prayers and they're always praying for my strength."
Persons looking to aid Shelton's fight with ALS can do so at www.gofundme.com.luton-shelton-fights-als-disease or at National Commercial Bank (Oxford Road branch), account number 214233150.