When something bad happens, you have three choices.
You can either let it define you,
or you can let it strengthen you.
I can hear the clinking of pills falling into their plastic holes, like horses being loaded into the starting gate at Pimlico. Across the hall Sweetie is filling his pill case for the week. Mostly I don't pay any attention. He takes care of his meds and I take care of mine. Except for ever-changing lists of meds neither one of us can even pronounce.
It wasn't the words but the frustration in his voice that startled me.
I dropped the damn pills. I can't hold these little ones.
Need some help?
No. I can do it.
A few minutes later, job completed, my love came into the room with tears in his eyes.
Are you crying?
I'm just so damn frustrated, he says as he plops his head down on my tummy like a pillow - his go to comfort spot. From this position I can rub/scratch his head, shoulders and half his back.
Except for the ceiling fan whirring up hurricane force winds, the room is quiet.
My father was 94 when he died. In all honesty I think his heart stopped beating 10 years earlier when my mom passed away. He was strong enough, courageous enough and mean enough to keep going until he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. That's when he turned down treatment and checked into hospice. He lived for a year and a half beyond the requisite 6 months. The truth is in his mind he was already gone. Not so much suicide as ready and willing for life to be over. From the time he signed the hospice papers he/we lived in a void between living and dying. There were days he would be his old military, I'm in charge, don't cross me dad one minute and circling the family wagons for a death vigil the next. Needless to say it was a tad schizo.
I've begun to realize that the same thing has happened been going on since Tuesday. The doctor said ALZ. Jack and I heard dying with a capital "D". Somewhere in the conversation there was mention of "early stage" and medications that can slow the progress. Yet one of my first thoughts was of holding the hand of a man who might not even know me while he took his last breath.
WAIT JUST A MINUTE, I'm finally hearing through the fog of dread in my brain. There is no cure for ALZ but there is still a lot of life to be lived, love to be loved. Not to mention stuff to get rid of and maybe even a dog to walk. If we are to be robbed of time and memory, we can't just hand it over to the robber without sucking every precious moment of it.
As I scratched Sweetie's head, a brilliant (if I do say so myself) idea came to me. Why don't we try to find one of those pill counter thingamajiggies that pharmacists use to dispense medicine. They never have to touch the pills - they just count them out, scoot them into the funnel and pour them into the bottle. By golly, I'm a genius.
By the time he sat up, Sweetie felt better. Not ready to do the happy dance, but comforted. It's as if a small window of our future was opened for me to peek inside. I saw that if I can keep my wits about me and not go all Prissy from Gone with Wind, if I relax into the pain as if giving birth, I'll be able to do this. I'm reminded that Carol told me this journey would be like a marathon. It was as if Sweetie and I had shot out of the gate and about to break the tape at the finish line without even running the race. We were leaving out the part where our bodies work like fine-tuned engines, where people line the roadway and cheer us on, where we drop to our knees to catch our breath and lift each other up, where strangers hand us water and sweet, juicy oranges. Any runner will tell you it's important to get a good start out of the blocks and to save a kick for the finish, but the whole point of the race is in the middle. (Actually, I just made that up, so I don't know if runners think that or not, but it makes sense, doesn't it? Otherwise what would be the point?)
God spoke to me and through me today.