There is no denying that it is hard to walk away from my delirious babbling love when it is time for the visit to be over (which is whenever I decide it is). As I hand him over to an aide for distraction, I hear him saying, “Where’s my woman?” Not sure if it came out Woman, or weben or water or heden– it could be anything, because his words are mostly unconnected strings of partial thoughts, lost before they are born.
We had been sitting on a park bench, and he was talking away a mile a minute. Me, “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you just said.”
He grins, “Well, neither do I.”
Me, “Maybe we should just be quiet awhile.” He nods, and holds the intent for at least 30 seconds, and then the “word salad” begins again. We had been dancing at “happy hour” with ginger ale and chips, and we were both rather tired. He kept wanting to go in the car to stay with me, or maybe not, hard to tell what he was saying.
Shortly after I walk out through the triple locked doors, (all with the same code, because no one who lives in there can read or remember a 4 digit code), brushing away a couple of frustrated and heartsick tears, tears of pity and tears of guilt, I return to my other life.
In my other life, I am a fairly competent journalist and activist, who delights in getting things done and helping others. Who enjoys the struggle, and takes solace in the little garden at our house.
I have decided, in that life, that I am as a widow, a half-a-widow, and allow myself to be grieving, whenever I need to, whether or not the social convention fits. It fits my heart, and helps. I carry my grief with me, tucked away in a special corner where no one can see it, and turn to it, as if for comfort, during the little rough spots of memory that smack me every day almost anywhere.
It’s not easy, leading this double life, one heart in the care home, the other happily working as always for social change (and to be honest sometimes just to raise hell for the hell of it!), but it is better than before. Then it was 24/7 care at home, sometimes scary, always frustrating, and never ever good enough to bring back my darling to me.
Years ago, after my mother died of a vicious and devastating stroke, I was in the grocery store, saw a strange ingredient and thought to myself, “Oh I must ask mom what she does with that.” At that moment I realised that through the long traumatic years of her paralysis, I had been saving up little questions to “ask mom” when she got better.
Holding on to faint and unjustified hope that our loves will somehow miraculously get better is one of the lesser perils of caregiving. It is part of what makes sending people into residential care so devastating. The end of hope for recovery.
I need to make sure that hope is rooted out of my heart, in this double life.