Sunday, August 31, 2014

I Miss You

We sit on the couch together, watching a movie we've seen many times. He is holding me close, and I can hear his heartbeat. I tell him I love him. He kisses my forehead gently and gives me a little squeeze. It is a tender moment that pulls at my heartstrings. A wave of nostalgia passes over me, and tears fill my eyes. I sigh deeply to regain control of my emotions. I hope he will interpret this as a sigh of contentment, and, in a weird way, it is. I miss him so much. But he hasn't gone anywhere.

Have I Eaten Yet?

I think I have figured out why my husband is gaining weight, seemingly for no apparent reason.

Thursday morning:

This morning, he had a large helping of cold cereal and a small bowl of strawberries for breakfast. That was about two hours ago, at the usual time. Since then, because I have been in the kitchen on my computer, I have spotted him going to the cupboard to get a bowl with cereal box in hand. Twice so far.

"Honey, why are you getting a bowl?"
"I want some breakfast."
"You already had breakfast."

And the bowl goes back into the cupboard. Until the next time.

Is it that he's actually hungry? Is it that he doesn't remember having eaten already?

Thursday evening:

It was a friend's birthday, so we all met up at a sidewalk restaurant to enjoy the beautiful summer evening and grab some eats. It was a very informal affair, and people were joining the group intermittently, causing the food orders to arrive helter skelter. Some before ours, some with ours, some after ours.

We'd already eaten a light meal, so I ordered a carne asada quesadilla to share. It was smothered in sour cream and delicious guacamole. It was fabulous. There were chips and salsa on the table, too. Anyway, we emptied our plate, and rightly so!

More food arrived at the table for those who had ordered after us. My husband seemed distressed, so I asked him what was the matter. He was upset because he'd been patiently waiting for his food, and when was it going to arrive? I reminded him that he'd already eaten, pointing out the empty plate. But he wasn't having it. Thankfully, someone else had an extra burrito. That seemed to make everything okay.

Sunday noon:

A group of us went out for Chinese food. Unfortunately, most of the orders looked pretty much alike, which was kind of confusing for all of us, but especially my husband. How are you supposed to know whether or not you've already tried a dish? So, that part was understandable. But making sarcastic remarks because no one told you there was rice available when you, in fact, have already just eaten a large helping of rice? That's somewhat less understandable.

So, I think I've answered my own question. When he fills up his plate again at a potluck, it just might be because he doesn't remember having eaten the first plateful rather than because he's still hungry.

What am I supposed to do? He's a grown man. If he wants something to eat, he should be able to have something to eat. Sometimes, I feel like the food police, and I don't like that. I don't like it at all.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Was Stationed in Puerto Rico

My husband is very social, which wasn't always the case. I consider this to be a blessing at this point, since he is willing to talk to just about anybody (even strangers on the street and the small children of passers by, which may or may not be a good thing). Any conversation with someone new (or new to him) involves telling his story, which, like most of us, he's anxious to insert at the first opportunity.

Our stories are important to us and to others. Our identities and memories are wrapped up in our stories. We are the sum total of our experiences, some say. And when our memories start to fail, our stories are an anchor in a storm of confusion.

Because we've spent our entire adult lives together, I'm able to help reinforce that anchor. Long-time friends can also be helpful in this regard.

He'll turn to me and ask, "Where did I work again, Chris?" I'll remind him of the places he's worked.

"Oh, yes. And I did [such and such]." This part may or may not be entirely accurate, as memories are pulled from here and there and pieced together, or exaggerated, or made up. It's all good.

"And I was fortunate to travel all over...Where did I go again, Chris, when I used to go to Europe?" He worked in Europe for six weeks many years ago. He remembers the event, but adds more and more countries to the trip. I wonder if these are places he's always wanted to go, but never said so?

He always brags about our children, too, though he wants to be reminded of where they work, what they do there, the names of their spouses, how many grandchildren there are, and so on. He wants to make sure he gets that part right. Or maybe I'm the one who wants to make sure he gets that part right. Whichever.

If he's talking with a new acquaintance who was in military service, the conversation quite naturally flows in that direction. Shared experiences carry a level of comfort:

"I was in the Navy. I was stationed in Puerto Rico for four years." It was two years, but that's okay.

"I flew in P2 Neptunes," and accurately describes the airplane, what it was for, and more and more details about what happened on those missions...things I didn't even know, though I was there. Top secret, or made up memories? Who knows. Some of the memories aren't how they happened at all. But it doesn't matter. He's sharing his story.

And then he asks the other person, "What branch of the service were you in?"

The person's answer is responded to appropriately, including the mandatory teasing for other branches of the military; but, particularly if the person is a recent acquaintance, the response just might flow pretty directly right into, "I was in the Navy. I was stationed in Puerto Rico......" And about that time, the person realizes that my husband may not remember the conversation later.

But that's okay. At least he's having a conversation. He's getting a chance to tell his story. And that makes him happy. And when he's happy, there's sunshine in my life.


As I'm sure you have already surmised from my writing, I am a person of many words. I love a good conversation, especially a meaty one about current events or politics or new ideas in Bible interpretation.

I've heard there are three levels of conversation. At the first level, your conversation centers around other people. Gossip, for instance. At the next level, it centers around events. And at the third and deepest level, it centers around ideas.

We (my husband and I) can't carry on conversations at any of these levels any more. Here's a sample from this morning's ritual:

Him:  "So, what's happening today?"
Me:  "You have a doctor's appointment this afternoon."
Him:  "Oh, okay."
Me:  "So don't forget to take a shower when you get up."
Him:  "Why?"
Me:  "Because you have a doctor appointment today."
Him:  "Oh, okay."

I get up and go to the kitchen to start breakfast. I hear drawers opening and closing. I go to the bedroom to find him already dressed in yesterday's clothes.

Me:  "Did you take a shower, sweetheart?"
Him:  "No. Why? Should I? Do I need one?"
Me:  "Well, yes. You have a doctor appointment today."
Him:  "Oh, okay."

And yet, I do still try to engage him in conversations about ideas and events and people. Because sometimes, we almost succeed. And hope springs eternal.

Time Warp

All of us have experienced the sensation that hours have gone by, only to check our watches to see that we've only been waiting impatiently for that friend or phone call or event for half an hour. We quickly realize our mistake, perhaps chuckle at ourselves and our impatience, and move on to more productive thoughts. For instance, forgiving that friend for making us wait so long.

At first, I thought my husband was just being impatient like that. He would say something like, "Where have you been? I've been sitting here waiting for you for an hour and a half!" In actuality, it had been more like fifteen minutes. I've been realizing lately that he isn't simply exaggerating. He really does think it's been that long.

His concept of time is becoming warped. How frustrating is this? Very. When I tell him ahead of time that we have an event coming up later in the day (in response to his query, "So, what's happening today?"), he really does think I've asked him to hurry up and get ready for that event, even though it doesn't start until 5 o'clock, it will take ten minutes to get there, and it's currently 11 a.m. Then he's upset and irritated because I'm not ready to go. And then he's frustrated and irritated because he thought it was time to go, and it isn't, and now he's going to have to wait.

And you're thinking to yourself, "Well, so, big deal. He's going to have to wait." For most of us, it wouldn't be important at all. We would find something else to occupy our time for a couple of hours. But for him, in this case, ten minutes elapsed equals an hour imagined. He'll be frustrated and irritated again as the conversation happens again. And again. And again. And, naturally, this is frustrating and irritating for me, too.

"Okay," you say to yourself, "Just don't tell him what's coming up." I know this because I've thought of employing the method myself. In fact, I remember saying that very thing to my Mom in reference to my Dad.

But here's what I'm wondering:  How would you answer his question, then, when he asks you what's going to be happening, and you answer him with enthusiasm because you think it'll be an exciting change of pace, something to look forward to (which it is)? I'm all ears.