Friday, January 18, 2013

It's Just A Cold

I’m not sure everyone who cares for the chronically ill experience the same feeling, the same impact. I know I do, but there may be others who handle things better.  I just know, for me, it takes very little to color life darkly.  The small stuff, a lousy cold, can suck the life out of a good time.

Marty got a cold.  It changed my view.  Marty sneezed, coughed and wheezed; it colored my every waking and sleeping minute.  It still does, it still will until the last dribble, until the last cough is clear.  

It doesn’t have to make sense.  It doesn’t have to be reasonable.  It is real, just as real as the seasonal color changes.  The change in her cough colors everything I see and how I feel on a minute to minute basis.  It’s just plain crazy to let something so small change not only my perspective on the present but my memories of the past.  Crazy clearly is my life.

Marty’s cold came the day before Christmas.  It kept us from Christmas Eve services with our children and grandchildren.  Given the report of the chaos of those moments maybe the cold spared us anxiety.  I would have liked to have had that anxiety with my kids; Marty would have liked to have had that anxiety.

The cold wasn’t the flu, it wasn’t with high fever or the oft times accompanying low blood pressure or low oxygen levels.  It was a cold; a hacking, sneezing, snot dribbling cold.  It was something simple, but something that changed my perspective on holidays, present and past.

Christmas day was full; Marty rested the best she could given the blowing, sneezing and running.  The family was there, the house was brimming with people, with food, with warmth; with all of the good things of Christmas.  We sang Noah’s prayer, we ate, we laughed, we traded gifts, it was the red and green and bright lights of Christmas.  

But, by the end of the day, when it started to get quiet, when family filtered out the door and the day started to wind down, the color of the day, for me, grew darker as I grew more tense and more worried and more focused on the dark side of my life with Marty.  

By the end of the day I had carefully and artfully taken what had been a comfortable Christmas and convinced myself that we had never had a good holiday, that there had never been a worry free Christmas and that I was destined to miss out on the pure joy of any special time because of some cough or sneeze or wheeze.  I completely colored our entire life with dark shades.

Normal for most is treating the cold, accept the cold, deal with the snot, deal with the cough, lie down for a day and move on.  We don’t deal in normal; at least I don’t see any of this as normal.  I see it, right or wrong, as the potential precursor for something much worse than a cold.  How’s that for optimism and Christmas joy.  A cold is the harbinger of a funeral.  

At the dark of that Christmas night I pitied myself into a party.  My daughter tried.  She reasoned with me, “Mom is stronger, healthier and better able to withstand a cold, we know more than we used to, this is just a cold, we know what to do.”

Doesn’t matter, didn’t matter, I let the perceived magnitude of a moment in time color reality and erase years of reality.

We came home from the lake the next day a day earlier than we had planned.  Marty got a bit better during the day but she still labored under the cold and all of the coughing and sneezing stressed her lungs to the point she was wheezing too much.  But she got better and just like Erin tried to tell me, Marty is stronger and we do know better how to handle things.

It took me days to gain the perspective to see what I had talked myself into, the tricks I had played with my own head.  It took me days and sweating with Gretchen the fitness muse to finally say, I over reacted; I maximized and let the moment take over not only our present but our past.  I wish I was smarter, I wish I could see the truth in real time.

We’ve been to Great and Wise, he had a cold over Christmas too.  Marty is over the cold and God willing will avoid the flu making the rounds.  We did take the flu shot, I hope you did too.  

By the way, I did get the same cold and just like Marty, I got over it, just like a normal person does.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thirty Seven Year Old Promises

January 3rd, 37 years ago we married.  We stood at the front of the First Presbyterian Church of Dalhart Texas and plighted our troth (love that phrase….how many times can you say “plighted your troth”).

It was cold, it was clear, the sky was blue.  Marty reminded me today that it was 1 p.m. on that first Saturday in January when we did that troth thing. 

I don’t really remember standing at the front of the church; I don’t really remember saying the words.  We have pictures that prove we stood there and walked the aisle so I know I did, I know we did, but I don’t remember the specifics at all, except through the pictures. 

I do know what we said; I know we promised things, important things, deep things.  I know, on the whole, for these 37 years we have kept those promises, in health and even in sickness. 

I can’t say for sure I would have made those promises had I known the future.  I can’t say I would have stood there, irrevocably confident in the future, if I had been able to see 30 years in the future.  I don’t know for certain I would have been able to promise the whole sickness and health thing if I had known, 30 years later,  Marty would slump over, her face slack, without muscle control, unable to speak, broken by the second stroke.  I just can’t say if I would have stood there and promised my faith and love to someone who would break in such a terrible way.

Today, on this day, we went to see Les Miserables.  Marty loves musical theater and Les Mis is one of her favorites.  I love it too and they have done an excellent job with this film.   If memory serves Marty first saw Les Mis in Houston with our daughter Erin.  I apparently was too busy being a captain of industry to go.  I first saw it in London with Marty, Matt and Erin.  I was moved then, I was moved again today, for a lot of reasons.

I have always loved the music, it feels so lyrical, it builds emotion throughout the production.  Marty loved the music and the words.  The words, the ideas behind the words moved her.  

The movie, like the play, climaxes as all of the intertwined main characters come together, as Valjean plaintively tells Cossette in music how she had brought him to God, how she had taught him to love and “to love another person is to see the face of God”, I cried again, just like I did the first time I heard the song.  

Today it wasn’t  just the music and lyrics , it was more than that, it was also the memory of sitting with my Marty and holding her hand as tears drifted down her cheeks because of the those words. 
Those words meant a lot to her, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”  As I look back at our life I realize why those words tugged at her, those words closely defined her own thoughts about love….and about God.

Marty doesn’t cry anymore, a gift and a curse, mostly a curse.  She sat there with me and watched this very long movie dry eyed as I took my sweatshirt and dabbed my own eyes.  I believe, somewhere, somewhere deep in her soul, that part of her that loves and cherishes music, that part of her that loves and cherishes those words, that part of her that loves and cherishes me was just as moved today as she was the first time we saw Les Mis together.

It was right and fitting that on our 37th anniversary we found ourselves sitting together, listening to this magic, together once again.  And yes, I cried again, not sobbing like a child, I cried man tears, wet cheeks and stuffed nose in the protective dark of a theater, with my broken wife.

If I had known the future, if I had realized the pain and trauma of the strokes, I can’t say for certain if I would have had the courage to stand there that cold day so many years ago and made promises.  I can say for certain that if I had seen the future and known how I would feel on this day I know for certain I would have said those words.