The Foolish Woman
Caring for a loved one with memory loss is a roller coaster. I did not expect to feel the way I do today. After almost 50 years of marriage… after the over-thirty years of caring for Hubby through many life -threatening situations, all of which he apparently survived… and the last ten years watching his memory decline, I should be prepared for the current pit in the bottom of my stomach which feels very much like a soccer ball just hit me square-on.
The emotional gutting began yesterday when we were watching a film about a couple whose baby died immediately after delivery. I watched it and remembered when our baby daughter died full-term and I had to go through 24 hours of labor so that my body could eject all ten pounds of her. I looked at Hubby to see if he related, and he was unaware of my emotional connection to the film. In years gone by, such a story-line would have been met with his insistence to change the channel. He would have wanted to protect me from the pain even when I thought could handle it.
When I turned off the television last evening, Hubby asked for “Barbara.” I said:
I am Barbara.
“No. The other Barbara! The one I was married to before you!”
I am the ONLY Barbara.
He looked at me with pity mixed with disdain and said “You are a foolish, foolish woman.” I felt like a deflated balloon. There really was no appropriate response. I got up and left the room. This is certainly not the first time that Hubby has been confused about who I am or which wife I am in the queue of three, but it is the first time that he insisted that I was stupid in stating that I am, in fact, his wife. That stung. Of course, I know on a cerebral level, that he is not responsible for his deteriorated memory. Nothing should pierce the invisible shield that I have placed around myself to protect my emotional state, but still, it did.
Today I spent considerable time showing Hubby photographs from our marriage almost a half century ago.
“Look at all the hair you had!” “Look how gorgeous you were, no wonder I fell in love with you!”
I shared the wedding photo of the two of us with his parents of blessed memory. Having spent considerable time wistfully remembering those idyllic days, with Hubby, he proclaimed:
“I have never been married. You are not my wife.”
My response to this new comment that shocked me was far from mature. This time I was true to form:
“If I am not your wife, then why am I taking such good care of you? Why am I cooking for you? Why am I in charge of your medications? Why am I spending all this money on your care?”
He looked blankly at me and could not put any of my responses into context. He saw no inconsistencies, and could not conclude differently. After my initial reaction, I withdrew, wounded, needing to gather my wits about me.
Hubby is entering a new phase and it is very hard for me to transition along with him this time. If this is not temporary, and he continues to believe that I am not his wife, then how do I find the emotional reserves to continue with this level of care and attention? If he said “I don’t remember” it would be more tolerable than being told that I am a stupid or foolish woman for believing that I am his wife! Hubby cannot couch any of his comments in a way that will not offend. He just blurts out whatever he feels at any given moment.
Somehow Hubby not remembering our life together was more tolerable when I could remind him of incidents and eventually he could recall them. Thinking that I am lying to him is quite a different matter, and clearly evokes a very different emotional response in me. I understand that I have to be the adult here. There is no option. Still, I feel cheated. If he cannot remember our life together, did it actually happen? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? (I know someone else said that first!). If I am the only person who remembers our stillborn daughter’s birth, how will I withstand the loneliness of a life shared completely together, a marriage of almost fifty years… forgotten in its entirety.
It is as if I must endure widowhood with my husband physically present, singing along with Frank Sinatra in his parallel universe. These private emotions are normally hidden from view. I am sharing this with you dear diary, because no one in their right-mind would do so!