A TBS reader has nobly shared the highs and lows he has experienced as his wife’s condition continues to worsen.
I can hear her drumming the tabletop in the next room. She’s keeping a metronomic beat to let me know that all’s well, but with each tap brings silence, and I’m wary of the seconds that I no longer hear it.
I’ve started discovering new things about my wife. New parts to the puzzle that don’t fit the old one. But the more I discover, the more I discover how much of her is missing. There have been long nights I’ve spent grappling with the situation. I know she lies there beside me, and I know she’s in there somewhere, but I find it hard to place the intricacies of my wife and this person. I know she’s still her, but there’s a large part that no longer belongs to her.
As my name is not attached to this piece, I feel that I can be honest about the situation, which is thus: the days when she belongs to no-one are bitterly becoming standard, which pulls us further from who we were.
As her mind clouds, mine has grown sharper. I’ve become more attuned to the space around us, and the places we occupy. A sort of renewed awareness, a childlike keenness of detail. Be it the feathered white strands in her fringe, the yellow underneath her ornately chewed fingertips or that staid grey smell of our bedroom. As the days of her clarity are waning, I’ve found myself treasuring her earnest gestures and touch more than I had before. I have never been more conscious of my wife, and I have never been so distant from her.
Some days she’s entirely herself, and I treasure them, those days reach the afternoon chill far too soon, time accelerated with memories shared – ones that I forgot. Those days give me hope. But as the man claims, it’s now all about managing her condition. When it first became known, I did a lot of reading, medical journals and the like, but I soon stopped that, when it spoke of my wife as an “it,” a problem to be minimised, but nary a person.
For the most part, it’s something that we can handle, we’ve made the adjustment without a great deal of fuss, but there are certain moments that I’m unsure how to deal with. I try to remind myself that it’s the condition and not her, but my temper rises nonetheless; in an attempt to describe it, it’s a kind of misplaced, juvenile rage. It’s not her fault, nor mine. It’s just something that has happened.
To see her dull, flat eyes look through me, that’s okay. But to see her guarded by my presence, that situation is far beyond my levels of understanding. In those instances, I leave. I walk into the next room and wait until I hear her drumming her hands.
The drumming, in particular, is important. It is one of the few indicators I have to ascertain where her mind sits. She does it when she’s comfortable. Always has. It’s strange what her mind retains, and what it hasn’t. The times when she is uncomfortable are harder to figure. She now regresses into a space of unavailability and conversation is strictly out of the question, which, at certain times when certain tasks need to be completed, brings on division. She snaps at me, and I snap back. I try to stop myself; it’s merely a reaction, but that doesn’t stop me feeling acidic guilt when she looks back with confused distrust in her eyes.
Not that it’s entirely a negative situation. I’ve learned more in the past three years than I have in the previous thirty. I’ve learned that problems need to be faced, addressed and spoken about. And while I’ve come to the conclusion that the woman I knew may not return, it doesn’t change how I feel about her. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve discovered that I like to read and that I enjoy reading to her, and to have her skinny hand in my lap, well…
As a poet put it better than I ever could:
I’m standing still, I’m old, I’m half of stone
Oh, hold me in those eyes’ engaging blue;
There’s where stubborn years gleam and atone,
Where gold is true.
– Hart Crane