Tuesday, April 12, 2016

When love hurts

This year is the 10 year anniversary of my first partner's death. I have revisited her illness and her death a little more lately, with my wife's cancer diagnosis. The two sets of circumstances are completely different, but it is difficult not to make comparisons.

I remember when we first heard about Dee's illness and how devastated we were. We went through ups and downs as we learned about the diagnosis and its terminal nature, then going through the process to determine transplant eligibility, and finally being told that she was not eligible for a transplant. Through the entire process, I was Dee's caretaker. We went to all of her doctor's appointments together. I toted her oxygen tanks and wheel chair, kept track of her meds, made sure she ate (even if it meant cooking 10 different meals), bathed her, and held her in the middle of the night when she woke up with yet another coughing fit. And, if I had to do it all again, I would in a heartbeat. That's what it means to love - even when love hurts. 

Fast forward almost ten years, and now I'm married to someone who dislikes, no - HATES - the idea of me being a caregiver or caretaker. She believes caretaking connotes that she can't care for herself. She's an independent woman, who wants to take care of herself... until she doesn't. Unfortunately, I'm not a good reader of when that shift happens, and I have been known to miss clues that she needs me. 

Needless to say, the two relationships, as well as the two women, are completely different. Here's the rub, though, I'm the same person. I am a caretaker. Taking care of my wife is how I cope, and I'm left without that ability right now. So, I'm flailing around trying to figure out what my role is in my wife's illness. What, exactly, is it, that I'm supposed to do? And, make no mistake about it; I need to be doing something. Doing nothing means I'm feeling helpless, and I hate to feel helpless almost as much as she hates the word caretaker. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The dog likes to lick my tears

Today, for no apparent reason, I cried. By all accounts it was a good day. I mowed the lawn, edged the driveway, and built a little patio for my grill. My wife has been gone for a few days and will be gone for a few more days, so I am feeling a bit lonely for her, but that loneliness doesn't account for my tears.

I noticed that Spirit, one of my dogs, seemed to be in need of some attention and love. We have this thing where I will lie on the floor and put my feet in the chair, and she lay next to me. Typically, these sessions turn into real love fests. This is the one time that she is allowed to lick my face, and she does so with gusto. Today was no exception. After about 20 minutes of petting and loving on her and her licking me, I just started crying. Her licking went into hyper-mode when she got a taste of my tears. I guess I needed that cry, and she needed to taste my tears. We spent a good hour on the floor, just being with one another. I still can't explain my tears, but I do feel refreshed. That may be the still wet glow from her licking.

This week, my wife begins chemotherapy. I have to be honest; I'm terrified - not of the chemo but of the possibility of it not working. I know that it will destroy most of the cancer while treatment is happening, but what about after? She has a disease that will not go away, even with chemo. So, what does that mean for us? I know she will live with this disease for the rest of her life, but what does that look like? I think I'm beginning to understand my tears. Despite having the answers about her diagnosis and the treatment plan, I still don't know the answers.

I guess we never know the answers. Perhaps that is the perpetual difficulty with life. I just feel like we were beginning to figure everything out and have finally built the life that we dreamed of, and now we have this kink in the plan. I know that life comes with kinks, but I'm really tired of untying knots. I've been doing it for too long.