Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Ache

It is always, or almost always – except for brief respites like insanely joyous holidays, wonderful evenings with friends, or walks in the woods – with me. A bit like a mild toothache or a sore joint. You don’t pay much attention but it never goes away.

And sometimes erupts.

Today at the care home, i find him out for a walk with the recreation aide, who is clever and compassionate and indefeatably persistent in her pursuit of ways to engage her charges.

He is hunched over walking crooked, looking oh so desolate. If this was Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, he would be judged and discarded as a druggie. Brought it on himself you know or whatever savage paradigm is in vogue these days.

But the aide points me out and after quite a bit of prompting he sees me, and grasps my face and says,”oh thank god, it’s you.”

I say “Yes, and i am so happy to see you.” We walk around a bit up and down the hall and out into the garden and wind up having lunch.

There’s a lot of things to look at and play with at lunch – spoons, napkins, cups, food, and what to do with it besides mounding it into the centre of the plate. Lunch is a full time occupation, not to mention the external factors: who is paying, can we stay here, (more  and more his ideal world features staying where he is) and, will i be staying the night? He “would be happy here” then. Somehow his smarts are at work because he is aware that he is well cared for in this place.

But me. Eventually i run away, or sometimes walk, happy to leave the hourly responsibility behind, thankful that our health system stepped in and found care for him, which IS care for me. I have been spending these many months recuperating, beating back illness and stress effects, searching for a new base. Wondering what kind of life is left for me.

I leave as i do every time, no longer choking back tears – mostly – just aware that the ghost of my love is always with me, always whispering “be careful, babe.” Always loving me much more than i have ever loved myself.

Tomorrow will be another day of mourning, one of my secret days, but tomorrow i must go to him again. A ghost of the man i chose to spend many joyous decades with, but still himself to my sorrowful eyes.

They call this “the long goodbye” but it is more like an amputation, day by day, week by week, as more of your relationship gets cut away.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

When you’re a stranger

Suddenly I feel funny, a little bit like the middle of a Hendrix song, all floaty and disconnected. Not really surprising. Just back from an amazing holiday, not to mention a time change and 23 hours in airports and on planes, then dumped back into “real”life. Enough to make anyone feel strange.

Tried to see my love yesterday but he was out for an ice cream run on the bus. Well yes, that is a big deal because 6 months ago they (the recreation staff at the care home) wouldn’t have tried to include him, and he would have been terrified to go.

Anyway he was off after ice cream, and i left. Not too disappointed because i had been dreading this reunion, after having been far away for 10 days on a glorious, nay grand, music and ancient stones tour to Ireland.

I had started my holiday a bit roughly, amidst people i didn’t know, overcome with regret and close to tears, imagining how my love would have jumped up to dance to the magic music. But a couple of women sat me down with kindness and common sense, and straightened me out on the need to learn to live alone. Others added a dose of friendship.

Somehow I listened and threw myself into enjoyment of this magic time. I loved being alone, the freedom of being accountable only to myself. I loved the chance to soak up the experience without caregiving. The only bathroom breaks i had to handle were my own. No need to spend an hour getting my darling ready to get on the bus. No need to hush his constant questioning.

But now. I had to go back to my sweetheart and try not to glow, I thought. Wrong. He looked at me today and stumbling over the words said, “You are getting more beautiful all the time.” How lovely, from my own heart’s desire. I thought he was looking pretty good too, although i wasn’t happy about how he was slumping over, talking to an arm of his chair when I arrived.

A wonderful care aide explained don had been shadowing him all morning and the aide had turned it into a game of hide and seek and tickles and giggles and boo! “Yeah it’s no mystery why he’s tired, now i think of it. But he only got tired about a half hour ago.”

I think again how lucky we are that the care is so good – i can’t begin to praise this staff enough – each bringing their own strengths and abilities to the job and each also adhering to the standards of care and surpassing them. They know much more about Don’s day-to-day, hour-to-hour, than i ever did – or to be honest, wanted too – with my untrained eye.

I don’t see much evidence of the previous tantrums and anger either. More and more i think living at home was just asking too much for him. Too much confusion.

I remember how he always came rushing in when i tried to talk on the phone,  and got upset when i didn’t engage with him. The concept of the telephone was gone, so why was i talking but not talking to him? Multiply that confusion by dozens of incidents a day and you have a confused and frustrated guy, ready to explode. In the care home the residents are constantly answering, speaking in the air to respond to voices from another conversation.

Anyway, to make a rambling story shorter, Don was delighted to see me, kissing my hand and then, slowly, deliberately, delicately, my mouth, and nodding, satisfied. “I am so happy you are here,” he said. “I thought and thought, long and long, about where you could be.” He paused and then asked, “Do you know where Delores is these days?”



Filed under Uncategorized