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She Has A Note
Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017 10:49 PM
Joined: 7/13/2017
Posts: 444

  A lot of discourse these days is wholly unfettered by facts, divorced from data and released from reality. Citizens should know better, and our leaders ought to be ashamed of themselves, but my DW has an excuse—she has a note from her doctor. She truly does not consistently understand, for example, that her Daddy is not coming by soon to take her home. No, she’s not being metaphorical about her long-deceased father; she very often sees herself as about 10 years old. She frequently sulks because none of the other kids in the neighborhood like her. Yet a moment later she seems quite clear that she is the proud grandmother of a four month old infant, though sometimes that infant is, to her, her own child, not her grandchild. The other day, as I held her hand much like I have done for over forty years, she asked me brightly, “What’s your name?” Another moment, she looked around the dining room in our retirement community and remarked, “These are all old people. How’d we get here?” “Well, hon, it is a retirement community, and we were fortunate enough to be able to retire younger than some folks”. She didn’t completely buy that. She is not at all old in her mind.

I am not letting any of this bother me. (Well, the general public/political lunacy yes, but the particulars with my Dear Wife, no). Unlike our elected leaders, my wife is not responsible for her illogical statements and her intermittent grasp of the real world. It saddens me of course, and it does challenge me to remain mentally flexible. Some days she cruises along fairly smoothly with clarity as to her immediate time and place surroundings, but perhaps with banks of mental fog in the distance. Other days, she swerves suddenly off the Reality Highway and I have to adapt to a sudden shift in the conversation or in her mood. Sometimes I can manage to gently guide the conversation back  (“Sweetheart, you know, your Daddy’s always been a Long Island guy, but you and I moved out here to Michigan now, so he won’t be picking you up” “Oh, yeah” “And out here, we are now near our daughter and our baby granddaughter. Want to see the latest picture of the baby?”)

But sometimes, there is no quick slide back into more or less the real world, and the result can be a bittersweetly fascinating experience. When she gets going, she can do an amazing stream of consciousness riff loosely based on stuff from her past. The other day she asked how her (deceased) sister’s boys were doing. I told her they were both married and well-employed, and that launched her into a reminiscence of how her sister had had to raise them essentially single-handedly w. no help from her useless jerk of a husband (this was true). Then she cheerfully launched into describing how successful her sister was with all five boys (there were only two) who had to be repeatedly cajoled about getting out of the house and getting jobs (not so), and that her sister had to be a strict disciplinarian because all boys are so useless, yadda yadda and on it went for about half an hour, happily weaving an epic tale of a heroine she was proud of, using one part fact and about nine parts extemporaneous fabrication. And I loved and encouraged every minute of it. She was on a roll and it was making her feel good, and I was not going to bother her with factual inaccuracies. (There’s a great scene in Animal House when John Belushi is trying to inspire his fraternity brothers not to give up. He asks “Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?” One frat boy gives another a quizzical look, “the Germans?” “Let it go” says the other, “he’s on a roll”.)  


In fact, I aided and abetted: I reminded her that before her sister passed, she had said, “If anything happens to me, please make sure that  (the younger boy) finishes school”. “Yes, I remember that” (Maybe.) I then reminded my wife that after her sister did pass, she had been in contact with the boy. He’d dropped out of school, but wife informed him that he was going to register for the next semester and that he was going to attend the first day of class; if he didn’t, he was going to have his little old gray haired aunt dragging him by his ear into class the second day. DW was pleased to recall this (even though my telling of it was a wee bit of an exaggeration). She was laughing and she riffed on for awhile longer about how proud sister was of all the many boys, and wife was clearly happy that she had been able to help out.   I try to be an honest man and I will not lie, cheat or steal or in any other way harm another. But if I need to enhance a story a bit to bring a laugh or even a little happiness to my wife, you can bet I will do that any time.

On days when she has been expecting her Daddy to come pick her up, she also sometimes urges me to be wary of her Mommy. Without the help of any pharmaceuticals, she can launch into a trip about her (long-departed) but still-present-to-her Mom who truly was at once a good and a wicked part of her childhood. Wife starts with some true incidents like Mom’s struggles with manic depression, and her efforts to make sure that her skinny child ate heartily, and how much of a picayune pain in the neck she could be, but pretty soon morphs into things like her Mom taking up with strange men (nope), or her Mom later trying desperately to get daughter married off (not that neither), and on and on it goes.  I just listen sympathetically with an occasional “Oh yes?” and “And then?” and “Oh, my” and so on.  Yes, of course it saddens me that some neurons are dying in there and paradoxically letting my wife be even more creative at storytelling than she ever was before. But again, if letting my wife have free reign across her somewhat imaginary memory landscape gives her some therapeutic pleasure, I will be happy to listen all day. I try to steer her away from cliffs. She started telling about a time when her parents dropped her off somewhere and expected her to start taking care of herself (a figurative, not a literal event). She was seeming to get pretty upset about it so I said, “Your parents did some really shabby things to you sweetheart, but I have always been impressed by your ability in all sorts of situations, to just cope with whatever happens, and just get on with what needs to be done.  No matter what, you never complain, you never give up, you never get mad, you just get on with things. It is one of the things I noticed about you first when I met you and it is one of the many reasons I still love you so much. And you know, I love you more now than ever.”  Though I wish today’s circumstances were a bit different, we are still on a journey of love.


Posted: Monday, September 11, 2017 11:32 PM
Joined: 1/23/2017
Posts: 1281

Mr Toad, how have you not written a book about this journey ? It surely is the trip of a lifetime.
Jim Broede
Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 5:26 AM
Joined: 12/22/2011
Posts: 5462

This is more believable than real life. Because it is truly real real life. And you are grasping it quite well. You are savoring it. That is the way real real life is meant to be. --Jim
Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 9:55 AM
Joined: 12/4/2011
Posts: 19622

I remember our days being much like those you describe. I too found life more pleasant when the journey down the rabbit hole was shared, not combated.

Beautifully written...thanks for the share and the nice memories you brought back.

Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 2:35 PM
Joined: 2/24/2016
Posts: 1096

MrToad, so nice of you to take the journey with her.  Hope my DH will be as kind.
Posted: Tuesday, September 12, 2017 3:51 PM
Joined: 7/13/2017
Posts: 444


Well, don’t know if there is a book in the future, but I do know that writing down my thoughts is therapeutic for me. If others find them useful, I am happy to share.



Posted: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 7:51 AM
Joined: 5/20/2014
Posts: 4408


This is real life. The timing may be off but it's real life nevertheless.  

What a lovely and interesting woman you're wife is Mr T! 

Posted: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 10:05 AM
Joined: 7/17/2017
Posts: 342

Thanks for posting this Mr Toad. Your wife is lucky to have you and if I progress, I pray my wife will be able to physically care for me in the same manner.

Your writing is excellent.

Jim - Im not sure "savoring" this life experience is the right word for their situation.

Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017 8:00 AM
Joined: 7/13/2017
Posts: 444

Had a triangular session the other day---DW and I went to babysit our four-month old granddaughter, our first. DW really enjoys seeing the baby but she does not have the reliable ability to hold the baby securely herself. So I end up doing some dual-direction caregiving. But overall it is great, because there are smiles and giggles all around. And then later it fuels wonderfully embellished tales by DW; "Oh, the baby just loved following you all around the house, talking with you a mile a minute... All the babies did. We had a good time with all those kids...." and on she went, multiplying and advancing the development of the offspring and weaving an even nicer memory than what actually happened. And, as several of you have pointed out, this is real. This is as real as it gets for DW, and experiencing this is very real for me, and I am happy to encourage every pleasant memory, authentic or not.

 Even if, on days like that, I get to wipe both tiny and not-so-tiny behinds; a small price to pay.

Jo C.
Posted: Monday, September 18, 2017 2:07 PM
Joined: 12/9/2011
Posts: 11592

Why my goodness,  I do not think of you as Mr. Toad at all . . . . . I think you were kissed by a lovely princess and are really a prince . . . . at least a knight in shining armor!


Posted: Monday, September 18, 2017 6:14 PM
Joined: 1/23/2017
Posts: 1281

You'll hear no arguments from me on that point, Jo . You are spot on !
Posted: Monday, September 18, 2017 9:04 PM
Joined: 2/24/2016
Posts: 1096

I agree!  A prince he must be!
Posted: Wednesday, September 20, 2017 9:35 PM
Joined: 8/6/2015
Posts: 1736

I, too, believe that to be true. 

Dear Mr. Prince, your writing is beautiful and so heartfelt.

Blessings, sharon