There is no way to really capture with words the experience of living with a spouse who is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I tend to be rather practical and upbeat, but the last few days, weeks, months have worn me down. Started with the fucking sprained ankle, which I totally underestimated until yesterday when I realized two of my toenails on that foot had fallen off in the night. I checked the calendar, still within the 4-6 or 6-8 weeks healing time. I know, slightly gross, but not under my control. Not under my control seems to be the theme of my life currently. It's not that I'm a control freak, by any means. I just have lived most of my adult life with a small amount of expectation. That got shot to fucking hell the other night when I thought I was doing the right thing by updating my husband's daughters by phone on his condition. Elder daughter was pretty agreeable, suggested a few things I could do above and beyond what I've been doing. Make him stop smoking. Make him stop eating meat and processed food. Take him for nature walks in the mosquito-infested swamp he used to work in. Invite some of his friends over. Then the whopper...make peace with his younger daughter. Didn't realize this was an issue, so I called younger daughter next. (I should explain they are both close enough to my age not to be biological daughters, but I've treated them as such when the need arose in the past.)
What I expected to be a 15 minute update turned into her accusing me of "single-handedly ruining her life the past 27 years", followed by a barrage of twisted perceptions and mud-slinging against my daughter and her husband, my grandsons, the US military, my sons, my mother and my dead father. It's a good thing I had a glass of wine and was leaning against pillows, in comfortable pajamas. When I could finally get a word in edgewise, I said, "You've given me way more power than I actually have." Her response was then to assign some blame to her father. She couldn't have pushed more buttons if I had pointed them out to her. I refused to play her game, which only angered her more. Not my intent, so I said, "You know if we were talking face to face, I'd touch your arm and say, 'calm down, this is hard for all of us; I do love you.'"
Didn't anticipate such a venomous reaction, but this is what she replied, "If you did that, I'd slap your face because you wouldn't mean it and you would expect me to say that I loved you back and I don't." It was at this point I realized something is broken in her that she needs to fix, and I want no part of it. Not now. Not anytime soon. Too much on my plate, as my mother would say. I wished her well and hung up. I would like to say it didn't bother me, but it did...a lot. It bothered me so much I made an appointment to talk with the interim pastor at the Methodist church I once attended. She wasn't even Methodist, but Presbyterian and she listened as I laid bare my burdens and my sad heart. For two and a half hours. I can't say I felt totally at peace or like everything would be okay, but I felt open again. As if this total stranger really cared. In leaving, I thanked her and apologized for taking up so much of her time. She laughed and thanked me, saying she would rather spend her time as we had than in a meeting about what style of music should be used or whether a room needed new curtains.
This is barely one per cent of what I've been dealing with but it concerned me because this coming weekend the younger daughter plans to pick her father up and take him to the Bronx Zoo. I've talked with him about it and he thinks he's going to some gardens that belong to a dead artist. I said I'm pretty sure she's taking you to the Zoo because it's free this weekend. No, it's not free, he says and there were no animals in cages; I've been there before...was it with you? Before I can answer, he declares he hates Zoos, that she better not be tricking him like she did the last time. Inwardly, I sigh, and tell him it's only two days in Brooklyn, then he'll be back home again. As if he is a child tattling on a sibling, he says they don't have food in their house and they drive around too much. I ask him if it would help to take some snacks or something magic to protect him. He looks at me, as if I have all the answers (which I don't).