New Year’s is coming up and it is the one holiday of the year when i really miss my love. I remember the very first time in our decades together when he did not make a point of bending to me with a kiss that was a sweet pledge. That first year of the missed kiss, he was more interested in the music (shout out to Flying Debris) and no longer understood what all the other commotion was about.
But a kiss is just a kiss and compared to all the other troubles it is naught. Besides, I secretly stole my New Year’s kiss today, when he was joyful to see me, and said with a hug, “Someday i will get to spend all my time with you.”
“Yes you will,” i said truthfully, not botherimg him to say he already had so done for decades, or that he was firmly implanted in my head, keeping me company all the time.
And we rejoiced together briefly until something distracted.
It was in January 2005 that the doctor confirmed something was wrong. I had suspicions previously but in the months before that appointment Don had had two serious episodes that were clearly some kind of mini-stroke.
The doctor diagnosed Mild Cognitive Impairment.
As we walked out, my love asked, again, “Do you happen to know what day it is?” and I thought “If this is mild cognitive impairment, what’s it like when it gets bad?”
Over the next twelve years i was to learn, slowly and in agony, how much worse it could be.
The first few years were fine — quite livable. We took a great trip to Newfoundland, and a couple of years later a grand trip to Ireland. Now i shudder to think of walking through Heathrow with this thoroughly confused man, but we made it.
On later excursions back to his family in Ontario I learned a couple of tricks — use the disabled washroom because it only has one door.
And i was surprised the first time when Don folded himself gratefully, almost gleefully, into a proffered wheelchair at the airport. After that it became routine: Don in a wheelchair with our bags piled on top.
Eventually all these adaptations were not enough and we stopped travelling. Now it is even odds if he will even venture out of the ward, never mind outside.
But this long slow decline has left lots of time for fear and tears, and for love, for laughter. Even now his personality shows through, making faces and grinning delightedly when we laugh.
As i prepared to leave today, having by distraction and persistence convinced him to eat the blueberry muffin he started out afraid of, I leaned over and kissed him tenderly.
“Why’d you do that?”
“Happy new year,” i said as i stole another sweet moment.
“Thank you very much,” he said with his most angelic smile, having no idea of the content, but feeling the sweet emotion and returning it.
One more new year troth.