I haven’t seen Marty shed a tear in seven years and brother; she has had many reasons to cry. I haven’t seen Marty purse her lips, rub her chin and narrow her gaze with anger since the strokes. Her emotions are tamped down, the fire that once burned is subdued.
After Marty’s first stroke she became placid, quiet, and too internal for someone who was always very external in her thoughts, words and feelings. After the 2nd stroke, the woman who was once loud and brash became even quieter, more reserved and void of external emotional queues. Her emotions are bottled up, seared over and sealed up by the damage to her brain.
But, emotions, feelings, are not to be denied forever. They build, even for the most placid among us, like too much water in a balloon until they have to escape, until they have to erupt like ash and stone from a volcano. I didn’t see it coming.
When I first got word that Marty’s mother had started to really deteriorate I told Marty what was happening. It was a weekend we were at the lake and I could tell the news was on Marty’s mind. She doesn’t always retain things she hears, those things she hears and remembers are a big deal. She remembered about her mom, she was bothered, you could see it in her eyes and in her demeanor if you knew what bothered looks like for the new Marty.
When I asked her about going to Dalhart to see Jean she was immediately all in, yes, she wanted to go see her mother, yes, she wanted to go, yes she wanted to go right now.
We made the trip; we arrived in Dalhart late Saturday afternoon. After we got settled I wanted Marty to rest a bit before we went to the world famous Bar H grill for dinner. I also wanted to go to the nursing home and see Jean and kind of reconnoiter the situation, hoping I could see what was real and brace Marty just a little before she saw her mom.
Jean was in the dining room pulled up to a small table with another resident of the memory lane hall. A nurse was trying to get her to eat just a little. I watched as Jean sat there without any interest in the food, closing her mouth and shaking her head when it was offered. Jean was sitting up in her wheelchair, good news; she wasn’t interested in eating and had lost too much weight, bad news.
My ego wants me to think she recognized me as I knelt beside her chair in the dining room but I don’t really know if she knew me or just accepted I was someone safe. She grabbed my hand, smiled just a little as I got close to her ear and reminded her who I was. She didn’t say anything as I told her we had just made it to town and I would bring Marty to see her tomorrow. She looked at me, clutched my hand tightly and said, “If she wants to.”
She didn’t want me to go; she held my hand tightly as I stayed beside her chair for a few brief moments. When the nurse came to move her back to her room she kind of forgot that she wanted me to stay, so I left with a heavy heart.
I reported to Marty what I had seen; she didn’t seem fazed by it too much, she probably was too overloaded by the trip and the different surroundings to care what I said.
The next morning Renea, our steadfast caregiver, Marty and I went to Coon Memorial to see Jean. She was in her bed, dressed, curled up, sleeping, sort of. It wasn’t a deep sleep; it wasn’t a restful sleep as she continually moved around in the bed, moving her legs, pulling her right leg up under her left leg.
I tried to get Jean to come full awake but just didn’t have the heart to nag her too much. I asked Marty if she wanted me to roll her closer and she nodded yes. I pulled Marty’s chair next to the bed and sat beside her as she watched, upset, bothered, distraught over her mother’s condition. “Skinny,” was all she said.
We had been there about ten minutes and I asked Marty if she wanted to go, she didn’t. Jean had rolled over on her right side with her right hand resting on Marty’s chair, then she rolled on her left side with her back to us, that’s when Marty started to gag and heave just a little. I immediately stood up and asked her if she was all right, a head nod, followed by continued gagging. I asked her if she was about to throw-up, she shook her head no, and started to spit up a little bit of phlegm.
I don’t know why I do it, I’ve done it once before, I immediately cupped my hands under Marty’s mouth to keep whatever vile stuff came up off her shirt. I hate vomit, it makes me sick, I don’t know why I would do that. I nodded to Renea who was already getting a trash can, just in time to catch the morning’s breakfast.
If you look you can find it. There is something called sadness vomit, or at least that’s what Renea found and called it. We went to the park by Lake Rita Blanca and decompressed, me fussing over Marty, badgering her with, “Are you okay?”, “Do you feel sick at your stomach?” She probably thought, “Yes, at you.”
I think all of the sadness, all of the grief, all of the feelings of helplessness simply overwhelmed Marty. The old Marty would have been at the nursing home all day and all night, she would have been looking at the charts, asking questions, challenging people. She would have been talking about how sad everything was, she would have been dealing with her grief, with her worry, with her angst in tears, words and anger.
The new Marty, the Marty who has been changed by strokes could do nothing to help, she couldn’t adequately express or address the fear, the anger, the sadness she felt. She simply got sick; the emotions erupted in a simple bodily function. She vomited.
We got back to Waco Monday afternoon. We were all exhausted from the emotions of the trip, the brief time away and the drive, the seemingly interminable drive across Texas.
Tuesday Marty and I talked. It had occurred to me maybe when it was time for a funeral she might not want to return, she might want to avoid the emotional upheaval that is a certainty with a return trip to Dalhart.
Me, “I think it’s going to be a real simple funeral, is that okay with you?”
Marty, “Sure, it makes sense.”
“Do you want to go back?”
Resolutely, defiantly, emphatically, “Yes, I want to go.”
“But it made you sick, I worry about that. What if you get sick again?”
“I might,” she said, not trying to reassure me, “You might want to bring a trash bag in case I do, I’m going to the funeral.”
That’s the Marty that wouldn’t worry about expressing her emotions. That’s my Marty.