We were living in Muenster in the early 80’s when she threw a full glass of Diet Coke at my head. I can’t remember what we had argued about but I’m sure it was some earth shaking thing like leaving the toilet seat up. Marty could get really angry, really fast, she also laughed out loud easier than anyone I have ever met.
Marty’s passion about almost everything was visible, up front and out loud. All of this is to say I could never get by with telling Marty I didn’t know how she felt about something. If she was angry, I knew it, if she was happy I knew it, if she was sad I knew it. How she felt, what she was feeling was always pretty apparent, except when she was scarred or when she felt insecure, then her false bravado would kick in, she would not accept people seeing fear.
Then she had two strokes, two assaults on her brain that altered her personality. Today, in our new normal, it can be hard to figure out what she is really feeling. There are the logical responses to logical events, events that clearly cause nervousness or anxiety to rise but generally her affect is pretty flat, except when she finds something really, really funny or really, really moving in which case she laughs, at both, it’s just what happens.
At the lake we have a large pontoon boat in our boat house. The boat is on an electric lift and I can get the boat level with the dock and move Marty on the boat for an afternoon or evening cruise. She has a really good life vest and generally enjoys being out on the water with her kids and others, though at times I think it scares her just a little.
The other day we had finished one of our evening cruises and we pulled into the dock and I started lifting the boat with the electric lift, out of the water and up to dock level, it’s about four feet now that the lake is down a bit. I got the boat just barely out of the water when the boat quit rising, the lift quit lifting and we were stalled about four feet below where I could roll Marty off the boat in her wheelchair. It was a conundrum.
It was hot, the boat was not completely out of the water and was moving back and forth and there sat Marty in her wheelchair, in her life jacket with her blue sun hat and sunglasses on, just a little askew, stranded on the boat. No one really panicked but I was racking my brain for a solution.
I’m a big burly guy but there is no way I could lift her that far on my own. It just so happened number one son Matt, a bigger and burlier guy than I am was at the lake with us. We called him down and I explained what we needed to do to get Marty to dock level. We needed to get on each side of Marty, under each arm, under each leg and lift, first to a chair, then to the dock, then to standing, then to her wheel chair.
Piece of cake, right?
I knew we could do this and tried to represent a level of confidence to Matt, Marty and Nickie our caregiver. I don’t know that anyone was buying the bravado but everyone agreed to try it. I moved Marty to a bench in the boat and Matt handed Nickie the wheelchair. He then got on Marty’s right, I got on her left with one arm under her arm pit and one arm under her left leg and Matt did the same on the right side.
I looked at Marty and said, “Okay?” She nodded one of those what else can I be but okay kind of nods and I counted to three and Matt and I lifted to the first level, the boat rocked and we went back down, gently. The next attempt we agreed to go all of the way to dock level and with another one, two, three up Marty went until she was sitting kind of snickering on the dock. I don’t think she was amused.
Matt and I both clambered up to the dock, grabbed arms and legs again, stood Marty up and Nickie slid the wheelchair under her, crisis averted, no broken bones, no dislocated joints, just another tale to tell.
Later that evening as we were retelling the story to each other one more time I asked Marty if she was okay, to which she said she was fine, a pretty basic, ordinary response for her. I asked her if she was afraid while we were lifting her and she nodded and said, “yes, I was, I was afraid you would drop me.”
I said, “I will never, ever drop you, not now, not later, but I understand why that was scary. You didn’t act like you were scared.”
“Well, you might not see it on the outside but I was really pretty scared on the inside and you can’t see that and just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”
Another lesson learned, remembered from our life together. All that stuff, all that joy, happiness, anger, sadness and love are still there, it’s all still a part of her, barely manifested at any given time. All that stuff, all of the emotions that drove Marty to throw that Diet Coke at me so many years ago, is still there, deep inside. It’s like she said, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.