The reason we are together for 50 years is that living with him has made me a better person than I am. He sees me as better than I actually am and he lives it...no matter what I say or do or how nasty I sound, he believes who I really am, not how I behave or talk at times. He has always believed in the good person he believes me to be, the good person he always saw, not the person I have always feared I was.
I don't think I was originally "in love" with this man. Certainly not the way the media has taught us that love is. But I chose him. My biological clock recognized him and I reluctantly followed its yearnings. He was familiar and safe. He was pretty and comfortable. I knew him from another life somehow. I saw him. I leaned into the sunshine of his devotion and have lived in the warmth of that light for my entire life. I have suffered as his gaze grows blank and the light dims, blinks, and goes out. However, even now that I am gripped in shadow, I can still catch an occasional glimmer of that light peeking through the pall of this despicable disease.
For respite I struggle in his garden. My fingers grow grey with grime, even inside the protective gloves. They ache as I pull relentlessly against the weeds, the infestations of garden decay. My back is screaming; my knees revolting against the demands placed on them. But without hesitation I continue to dig away at the intruders. It is a release to pit myself against an enemy I can see and I can respect. These weeds have long, strong roots. They thrive in highly unlikely places, small crannies, the sides of the brick path, in minuscule cracks. These weeds are survivors and are to be respected. Not so with the weedy ravages in his mind. This intruder is a savage whose aim is not to thrive but to destroy. I have no respect for its green tentacles that I watch choking the life from his brain. He can barely walk now. He rises only if I pull him up from a sitting position, his legs shaking, his body bent. He eats his tissue, his bib, his empty hands. Those hands remain in tight claw like configurations, grasping imaginary bits of a former life, clinging to what used to be. I pry open his fingers to let him hold a spoon, his tissue. Whatever had been in his hand falls in a trail behind him, unaware of their respective duties, forgotten in the miasma of his mind. I am so sad for him.. I hold him against me as often as I can, soothing as I did my children when they were small. Yet he shadows his caregiver now, not me. I have a funny mixture of responses to that phenomenon. It feels strange to see yet strangely comforting that someone else can make him feel even slightly peaceful and safe.