Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Brutally Cold And Tired With A Chance Of Whining: an Indulgence

Seven degrees tonight and windy, and we're under a winter storm watch for an expected 3 to 5 inches of snow.   Need I say more?

Life has changed for both of us since my sweetie's stroke.   We were in the hospital for about a week that felt like decades, where he went from death's door to feeling well enough to just want to be home.   Once home, of course, I could see that there was, and is, still a lot of healing to do.   His strokes were in the cerebellum and occipital areas of the brain, affecting vision and balance.   The balance deficit seems, so far, to be quite mild, although he appreciates the comfort of a cane now.   The vision is more complicated, and he has lost 50-60%, the entire right field of view, in both eyes.  We understood when we brought him home that some things would be out of the question for now, things like driving and reading, and we felt fortunate.  

But I don't think we realized how taxing this has been on his body, and we are finding that he sleeps for hours and hours, remaining alert for only a few, sometimes only a couple, hours at a time.    He needs dark and quiet.   This is not a time for serious discussions, even though this is a time when serious things need to be decided.  If he does more than a little talking or visiting, the headaches - that were debilitating at the start - begin to return.    His goal now is to not take pain medication during the day, and the only way to accomplish that so far is to sleep for much of it.  His mood remains good, his nature remains sweet, and I am well aware that we dodged a lot of bullets in this event.  And although I don't always sound that way, I am grateful.

So it is truly not a time for me to indulge in whining, but for equally true, I am feeling whiney.   We have always had fun together, we enjoy many of the same things, and we just enjoy being together.  We spent virtually all of our free time together and have for several years.  When he was healthy, he didn't want to consider living together.   That's not entirely true, he sometimes mused that at a different point in our lives it would have been a good option.   We fantasized about traveling the country in a van, or a train, or an RV.   But at our ages, with our individual houses full of the evidence of those years, and with him having an unemployed, struggling adult child at home, he considered it unthinkable.   And marriage, he was very clear, was out of the question.   I was okay with that.   It meant giving up a few dreams of my own, but I was pretty much happy enough that it wasn't a big deal.  

Of slightly more concern to me was his attitude about our place in each other's family.  We both, of course, adore our own.   And I guess that for me loving and including a person's family is a part of loving that person.   He's included me for five years in every family celebration he can, and I've embraced his family.    But he has been invited to all the same of my family events and has attended few . .  what?   maybe three?    Maybe a couple more, but the emphasis is on few.   He expresses frequent frustration at not having grandchildren, but it was always clear that he had little time for my adored Grands.    And so I have always commuted, both metaphorically and physically, between his life and mine, a real-world 50 mile round trip.  I figured it was a fair trade off.   I enjoy being with him, we were not trying to merge our lives, and I made myself available for my own peeps whenever my family wanted to get together.

But now I am at his house every day and every night.  The holidays complicate things, of course, because with plans and orders made long ago, I have packages delivered at my home 45 minutes away almost daily.   And my family will be at my house the day after Christmas, where I will take my turn at hosting our dinner and celebration for siblings and nephew and all our littles.  So there is cleaning and menu planning and decorating to do.

Meanwhile, of course, I am cleaning his house, scrambling to help his kids when they run out of gas, cooking the meals, arranging doctor visits and keeping track of medications, shoveling.    None of it rocket science, none of it a problem, except that of course there is never time enough to do it all and there is no end in sight.  

Not surprisingly, I am tired and sad, and I can't share my feelings with my bestie because he needs calm and quiet right now.   I am also a little confused, I guess.   He suddenly wants the kind of relationship that he had no interest in before, and I can't help but wonder if that is something he truly wants or just his vulnerability talking.   And, as I gave these ideas up long ago, I have no idea what I want, or whether I would want it under these circumstances.

Right before the stroke, he looked at me from his hospital bed and said 'you are so beautiful.'   He is not a flowery guy and it was a surprise to hear it.  Sweet.   But later he remarked that he was so happy that he told me that when he did, and that he still remembered how I 'just glowed,' which made me question the truth of it and wonder if the occipital stroke was beginning even then.  

When he got home, on the first night, he gathered his children and announced that we were going to move in together.  I had to finally ask him whether he thought we had discussed it, since his assumption was a huge surprise to me.    It's equally clear that he never gave anyone in his life any hint that he felt that way about me; his twin told  me just a couple of months ago that she knew we were "just dating."   And when his extended family wants to know how he is or what he needs, they ask his daughter, and she gives her best answers, just as one might expect with a single father.   It's not unreasonable for them to assume that since we were "just dating," his daughter is the expert.  (As a side note, the extended family has not asked about me, and frankly, that just hurts.)   His kids have been appreciative of my help, but it's clear that they also expect it.      I've been his helper and sidekick for a very long time.   So I don't trust the truth of his new feelings, and I'm pretty sure I can't trust mine either.  

Make no mistake, despite the cautions from my siblings, this is a committed relationship for me and I have no inclination to change that.  But silly as it seems,  I also don't want my love story to read "he wasn't all that  interested and then he had a stroke and she looked really good to him."     I know that this is not a time for any big changes or discussions.  I am too tired to figure things out and too tired not to vent.  So I reckon I'll just keep driving back and forth and try not to listen to the tired talking in my head.


Barbara said...

You are asking good questions, my dear. It's a very tough situation, and clearly, a new normal is in the future. You are wise to ask whether it is a normal you want to be a part of. The person you knew when he was healthy is probably gone for good, and so it is only natural to ask if the person you now love is someone you can commit to spending the rest of his or your life with. Time will reveal the answers, and so it is good to ask the questions with a clear head and a loving heart. In the end, you must do what is right for you. It is your one and only life, and you deserve to be happy.

Kim@Snug Harbor said...

You have a lot on your plate my friend. I will tell you this - be sure to take time for yourself or you will become resentful and you may get run down and sick, which will do neither you nor him any good.