Growing up, I remember hearing the older generation tell me to enjoy my youth. It isn’t until recently, that I have been able to grasp the enormity of what they were talking about. Perhaps it takes a cancer scare, or a near miss on the highway to realize that life is so precious, and that we should never take one minute for granted. For me, it was being told a year ago, that my husband has just a few years to live.
Now that I have taken care of the legal responsibilities and financial paperwork, it is time for me to relax a bit. For me, it feels like I am letting my guard down, and that is terrifying. This means, that I might have to breathe in and take in the past two years, and I fear that I might have a melt down and it could get ugly. I hate crying. I hate showing that I am weak. I pride myself on being strong in my faith, and a melt down would show others that I am not as strong as I say I am. Each day, I put on the face, do what I need to do, and am relieved that I had no time “go there”. Work is a busy place, with young ones sucking out every bit of my energy by day. Evening moves quickly with correcting papers and home responsibilities, and I find that I can dodge thinking by staying busy.
While I correct papers, my husband keeps me company. He tires much quicker now, and he often spends just a short time with me before going to bed. Surprisingly, I am getting used to thumping around the house by myself while he rests. The dog is good company by day, and the cat sleeps at the foot of the bed by night. They have become quiet companions. We are enjoying the weather, and looking over the valley and across to the mountains is breathtaking. This is truly my favorite time of the year.
I have been bragging about how well he is doing. Most years, I am able to give him a plant budget. The last couple of years, we were unable to do that, but this year I could. He is determined to stop the snow, by making natural tree barriers that will act like a snow fence. The downfall is that it will affect the neighbors view, but we truly have little choice in the matter. The funny thing about Dementia is that you don’t always remember what you’ve done. This means that he keeps getting more plants and trees after he thinks he has planted them all. It’s pretty funny. I can’t wait to see what they look like when they begin to grow. I think we will both be surprised. I don’t care. It has kept him busy, and he is having a lot of fun doing it.
The good news is that he is very tired at the end of the day, and is sleeping the best he’s slept in years. He is keeping the CPAP machine on his face, so he is getting good air, and for the first time in about 13 years, we are actually able to share the same bed. (He rolled a 4-wheeler 13 years ago and experiences chronic pain as a result.) I like that. We fall asleep holding hands, and often I awake to just listen to his breathing, to put my face on his shoulder, and to pray for him. Lately, I have been praying that when the time comes, that God takes him from something other than the Dementia. I don’t want that for him. When it is time, I want him to pass peacefully and with dignity. I do pray that God grants that for us both.
The thought that haunts me most is what to do next. I worry that I won’t be able to keep the house on the hill and I accept the fact that God has perhaps only loaned it to us for a short time. My thought lately, is that God gave my husband the house to keep him busy and happy during this illness, and that when he is gone, I will need to begin a new chapter somewhere else. I think I have figured out where this somewhere else is. I think God wants me to move to the town that I work in. For quite some time, I have been passing a small house, four doors down from the school, that is vacant. It looks sad, and I have taken to praying for the house. Ridiculous? It sits on a small lot, needs some TLC, and is small enough for a single person to care for. It isn’t up for sale. I believe that it is in foreclosure, and I think that God may be reserving it for me. So I showed it to my husband. He liked it, and of course, said that we should try to buy it so that he could put on a new deck and plant some gardens. The lawn is simply unacceptable! He also had a good idea that makes me swallow. He said that he could take sprigs of the plants around our current place and plant them on the property. I love that man.
My desire is to keep him home longer. Perhaps if he is four doors down from work, I could check on him mid-day. With coworkers and friends from town nearby, I would have a bigger support system, closer by. I love the community that I live in, but we are very rural and we rarely see one another. I think I need sidewalks, people, parks, and shops within walking distance. The mountain is wonderful with company, but I fear that I will be desperately lonely by myself.
In the meantime, he is still here and I don’t want to miss a single moment with him. I have started to see subtle changes. he is having difficulty getting dressed, and is forgetting to wash, brush, or shave. He is losing things more frequently- where are those darned glasses anyway? He sometimes has difficulty finishing sentences and finding words, or uses the wrong words while explaining things to me, especially when he is tired. He is quiet, and often just sits with me without saying a lot. But he is cooperative and likes to go places with me, and he doesn’t shiver as much as he used to. Mostly, I notice the change in his eyes. I wonder if anyone else does too.
So today, I resolve to focus on the fact that my husband is still here. He is still helpful, funny, comfortable to snuggle next to, and still that man who I want to be with and would marry all over again if given the choice. I love him with all that I am, and I will do my best to live in the moment, and enjoy him every single minute.