When Marty got sick, when her brain was devastated by the stroke, everything changed. Duh..... Certainly our roles changed, certainly the everyday logistics of our lives changed, certainly our ability to live as we once had or planned changed. Part of the changes were evolutionary, changes that occur for everyone as we move through our journey. Part of the changes were made from necessity because of the physical and mental disabilities to Marty as a result of the stroke.
In some ways the hardest changes for me were the changes in Marty's ability to be a partner in mulling, in debating and in emotional support. Like many things, I didn't realize how important her support, how important her day-to-day psycho-analysis was to me. I have missed most the part of Marty that was unconventional, the part that was unpredictable, the part that was always challenging the conventional way of thinking. I have missed the emotional outbursts (who would have thunk it)and the emotional support, I have missed how she would challenge me on almost any decision.
I miss all of those things that used to drive me crazy about my wife. But now Marty and I have managed to fall in with three new members of our family, Nikkie, Renae and Erica, who together kind of bring some of those things that were amazing and infuriating about Marty back into our life.
Erica, Renae and Nikkie are wonderful caregivers, but they are much more than that. They spend way too much time here and away from their families, for this we are both forever grateful. They make our lives easier, richer, safer and fuller. They are a part of the family. They go on vacation with us, they have Christmas with the family, they celebrate birthdays and worry over illness. They talk to Marty and treat her like a queen, and they all bring something of Marty that was lost in the stroke.
Nikkie has been with us the longest. She was here right after we came home in June of 2006. She took a sabbatical for a while but came back and we are glad. Nikkie is full of fire and emotion. She doesn't say it, but you can see it in her eyes. Nikkie is the one who cried when Marty had a seizures. She is the one who brings Marty's full well of feelings, good and bad to our house. Nikkie is the passionate voice, the one who from time-to-time makes me the angriest, the one who helps me to remember the passion of anger and the beauty of tenderness. She reminds me so much of Marty.
Renae is Nikkie's sister. She came to us during Nikkie's time away. Renae has been with us almost as long as Nikkie and is here the most. Renae is full of ideas, thoughts, suggestions and sarcasm. Sound familiar at all? Renae constantly questions, why, what for, what good does that do? Renae is the resident smart ass, always with the quick rejoinder, always with sharp wit. She sees things and ways to do things I don't. She challenges me to think about what I am doing, she makes me think about every decision. She drives me nuts, just like Marty did, always probing, always questioning, always wanting to be right.
Erica is our newest family member, she is also the oldest. This is actually her third job, the first taking care of her son and husband, the second running a beauty salon. I can't tell you how quickly Erica became important to us all. Before Marty got sick she was moving constantly, when she was awake. Marty had a hard time settling in for a long movie or TV show because she was always doing stuff. Erica is forever doing stuff. She cleans, she picks up, she organizes, she helps keep me organized and I was desperate for the organization. Erica has ideas, she has a wonderful eye for detail , and she, like Marty, is always just doing stuff.
What we have been lucky enough to find are three wonderful women, people who care about others and how others feel. What I have been fortunate to find are three women I can trust with the life of my bride, who I can trust with my own emotions and who I depend on. And, trust me, that's not an easy thing for me. Depending on others is not the strongest part of me.
What these three women have done is to continue parts of my wife that I miss. In their own ways they have reminded me of parts of Marty that were lost, and they have resurrected those parts in their own unique ways. While those pieces of Marty's personalities cannot be replaced, they can be underlined and these ladies, and they do it just by being themselves. God love them, they are our daughters too.