It’s New Year’s Eve 2016. We have a day of food and football planned. Melissa went first for the shower. As my turn approached, I walked through the bathroom into our closet, emerging moments later in only my underwear and t-shirt. It was then that Melissa asked “where are you going?”. There was just a hint of panic in her voice that I didn’t notice immediately but the question did make me laugh. Where am I going in my underwear? Well, to the dirty clothes hamper to drop off these undergarments before I get in the shower, that’s where. I asked if she was worried that this was the moment I cracked. Has she just been waiting for the day that I hit the back door in some state of undress to wander around the neighborhood, mumbling about this or that until someone called to let her know I was scaring their kids. As I stepped into the shower, we were both laughing to the point of tears, I suggested she put me in a home before it got too bad.
As the laughing subsided, that slight panic in her voice played back in my head and a more frightening thought occurred to me. Am I already gone? Was the panic in her voice well-earned? Maybe I slipped off months or years ago and it’s now a constant battle for her to keep up with me as it was with the kids when they were young. I wouldn’t know that my mind had gone, would I? Maybe today was just one of those lucid moments that dementia cruelly allows only serving to remind the loved ones of those afflicted how much has been lost.
As I sat to write this (at least I think I’m writing, I might be walking around in my underwear mumbling) the scenario got more concerning. Am I 49 years old or 59? Did I lose my mind a decade ago or only yesterday? If I am lost, it’s not bad at all for me. It seems like I keep myself busy with work. I enjoy my coffee and whiskey, and I still like bicycles. Melissa and I are happy together. As in love today after 26 years of marriage than ever … but is that our reality? Is her life actually quite different? Is it a burdensome balance between working to provide for us and caring for her husband who can no longer be left alone or care for himself. We’ve known for some time that, from a financial stand point, we’d never have the carefree retirement years couples dream of but this would be completely different. Forget traveling to see the grandkids, she’s having to pay the bills and raise a wholly different type of dependent.
So that went south quickly. I sure hope that’s not the case. I hope I’m still here. If I’m not, I’m sorry for my wife and I hope it doesn’t last too long. Happy New Year!