Archive for the 'Dying' Category

It’s hard

It’s hard remembering the good times. I seem stuck on the bad ones. The awfulness of the disease and the things that it did to her.

I wander through the house looking for something to do. How many times can I do laundry? I turn on Spotify to fill the silence but it fails to quiet my mind. I walk past the condolence cards set up on the island in the kitchen and think about the kind words spoken by the senders.

All the cards are meaningful and every one of them has some special thought penned by the sender. Some are quite beautifully written and others not so much but equally welcomed. There was an outpouring of cards a week ago but now they sort of appear randomly. Like everything else in life, things seem to return to normal and other events take the place of those that fade.

I don’t feel like doing much. No, that’s not entirely true. I think if someone called right now and said “meet me at the coffee shop”, I’d go. The house is big and no human sound emanates from its walls. I’ve tried the sofa near the TV, the chair in front of the fireplace, the wobbly chair in the sun room and that little couch in the bedroom where Ila would sit trying to tie her shoes. It’s an uncomfortable couch but we spent a lot of time on it talking, arguing and holding hands.

And then Lisa called. She and Hal wanted to take me on a field trip. Field trip? They arrived, I got my dorky hat and a bottle of water. Got into their car, drove down the hill and five minutes later we were at the Aaronson horse ranch. Short field trip, I thought.

I’m not a big fan of horses. They always seem to eat the wrong things, stand around clueless in the hot sun, and spend an inordinate amount of time with the vet. But I figured any port in a storm. I followed Lisa to her horse’s enclosure and watched her reinforce an already unbreakable bond with the animal. I did the usual carrot offering and watched as the mare picked daintily at the straw.

I met Al. Interesting guy. Must be as old or older than me yet he moves with the quickness of a cat, tends to the many horses housed at the ranch and comes complete with a history that he shares with anyone willing to listen. He told me about Joel’s first wife, Edith, who passed away years ago. It helped me with my own grief.

We visited some of the horses, and met some horse people (who are unique and thoroughly into loving and caring for their animals.) I was tiring and was ready to go home. But Lisa said “Would you like to meet St. Angelica. She’s pregnant.” I thought, ok one more and then home.

I was alone at the fenced enclosure. A very pretty Angelica came to me but didn’t seem to be looking for food. I stroked her face and scratched behind her ears. She lowered her head and lightly nibbled on my shoe. She rested her warm head on my shoulder. I talked to her, not horse talk but people talk. “Is that you, Ila? Are you reminding me of how you used to tie your shoes?” A silly thing maybe but at that moment I felt warm and happy. I was close to my sweetheart. I could have stood there forever. But Angelica had other things to do, walked away, and left me with a lasting memory.

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Sweetie Died

My one and only Sweetie died last week. She wrestled with Alzheimer’s for seven years and it finally took its toll.

It’s like peeling an onion. The first piece is your short-term memory. You will ask the same question over and over. Next comes a jumble of long-term memories. We’ll remove your ability to enjoy music, movies and live entertainment. Crowds will be your adversary. Your appetite will diminish and you will forget how to use a knife and fork. Your sweetheart will cut your food into bite size pieces. You’ll eat a lot of chocolate ice cream but not much else.

We’ll make dressing yourself a chore that takes more precious time away from living. You will forget how to tie your shoes. Along the way we’ll even add a few things, like headaches and pain. Or wild dreams that cause you to sit upright in bed and yell at the dark intruders. You’ll constantly repeat the same stories and create ones that are more fantasy than fact. You will visit the hospital ER several times and stay in the hospital some nights where you’ll rail against being there.

We’ll make you think you live someplace else other than your home. And wonder if your parents are still alive and do they know where you live. People will arrive who want to take care of you but you’ll swear at them and tell them to get the hell out of here or you’ll call the police. Your sweetheart will try to cope but he will feel much of your pain and anguish. Your sole entertainment will be getting in the car, driving into town, turning around and going home. Getting out of the car in your garage and walking to the house will become a terrible adventure.

Your sweetheart will turn his back for an instant and you will fall in the bathroom. And then you will fall a few more times. He will call the fire department to come and lift you from the floor, and you will tell them to mind their own business. You will finally get to bed, the paramedics will leave and he will wait for it to happen all over again.

You’ll sleep a lot on the chair in the sun room, the soft one in front of the fireplace and the couch in front of the TV. In a lucid moment, you’ll sit on the edge of the couch and say “I can’t do this anymore.”

Eventually you’ll have a caregiver because your sweetheart is exhausted. The hospice nurses will visit every day. They will bring a hospital bed, a walker, a wheelchair and other things that you thought you would never need. They will know things about life and death that only come from doing it over and over again.

You’ll fall asleep for days. Then, without warning, you will be gone. And your sweetheart will feel his heart bursting from his chest. And he will be alone for the first time in fifty-seven years.

And everything will remind him of you. He will fill his time by crying. And he will love you more than ever.


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