If you want someone to sleep with during cold, lonely nights, get a dog. Or a cat.
Not all men or women agree with that attempt at addressing a very real problem in a whimsical way. Some don’t like animals in the house, and certainly not in bed with them.
My wife loves animals, so for many years we had either a dog or cat sleeping with us. In the memory care home in which she now lives, they have a resident cat. When Facebook pictures are shown of her, she is often cuddling the kitten. In one video clip she was shown kissing it.
Except for the rare occasions I keep my granddaughter’s cat, I have no animal in my retirement villa. Sometimes I’m tempted to get one. For now, my solace at night is a little Bose radio hooked to Sirius XM, a satellite service most often used in automobiles. I can’t tolerate most of the stations, but it does carry soft instrumental music I find relaxing if played at a low volume.
My wife and I agreed to never install a TV in the bedroom, which specialists in sleep disorders tell us is a good idea. So, I perpetuate that practice.
Even in this time of supposedly enlightened thinking and acting, relationships are culturally proscribed for people of certain genders, ages, cultural affiliations, religions, and socio-economic levels. Stereotypes abound. While there are few rock-solid regulations or expectations, there is an undercurrent of what is considered socially acceptable or not acceptable.
I’m an educated man who has always valued the importance of a religious and moral life. In some ways that’s far from typical. For now, suffice it say, I’m caught in my own cultural stereotype.
Our 58 years of marriage is admired by others. The ongoing love felt for my wife and two 50-something sons is personally satisfying. My sons are my best friends and are enormously supportive in more ways than I can count. I have terrific friends, professional colleagues, and congenial neighbors. My life has been and continues to be rich and full. The fact I’m healthy, with a brain that still functions pretty well, is in some ways surprising to me.
My brain continues to allow me to interact with the world. That’s no longer the case with my wife, the other half of me for over half a century.
The carryover from the “we” years is all encompassing for me personally. Out of that time we developed a worldview that amalgamated the spiritual with the rational. In ordinary language, we mixed our belief in Christian teachings with secular (practical) ideas.
Another way of saying it, is that everything we prayed about or reflected on in a spiritual way needed real life context. And our personal and professional behaviors were designed to reflect that perspective.
It was the essence of our dedication to service.
Pillow talk. Both of us discussed what this time of our lives could be like. We knew that one of us would need to finish an existence in this world without the other. That time arrived in a somewhat unexpected way. But it’s just a variation on a theme.
The theme is pending death. The variation is Alzheimer’s.
I’ve briefly examined other blogs written by people living with Alzheimer’s in a loved one. They’re good. They are always uplifting and frequently spiritual. They inspire. Most are anecdotal and make good use of metaphors from the natural or spiritual world.
Sometimes I get the feeling that natural or spiritual metaphors are a kind of relationship unto themselves. They have personalities and a kind of ethereal substance. They even seem to replace the missing part of the loved one who is slowly fading away.
I’m sure that kind of reflection and writing is helpful to the writer. But I can’t do it.
Is it the “male” in me? Am I deficient in spiritual depth?
A kind of “always” or “legacy” completes the memory of what my wife once was and, in some ways, continues to be. But it’s not spiritual for me. I can think of no metaphors that fill in the empty spaces like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.
Although I tend to be an academic with a moral compass, one who probably thinks and writes too much, I’m still biologically human. I often long for what was and sometimes wonder if the “what was” can be replicated in someone else. Not a facsimile of my wife. Not a romantic involvement.
Just someone sitting across the room or table from me, encouraging me in one moment, and telling me how wrong I am the next. Not just a sounding board.
And, on the other end of the spectrum, certainly not an alter ego or soul mate. Perhaps a confidant, someone I trust with my innermost thoughts and beliefs.
For some reason I’m unable to think of that person as a buddy, another man. I can enjoy being with guys my age, but not that way. We talk about the usual stuff, mostly cars, politics, sports, travel, adventure, business, money, and property. Occasionally the conversation turns slightly more personal, but we avoid touchy-feely topics like the plague.
The sisterhood of women at least partially overcomes that problem.
I envy them.
For me, during this Twilight Zone in which I’m living, personal conversations with a woman are seen as socially off kilter. I’m a married man, you see. There is something disloyal about getting too far into certain topics with a woman who is not my wife.
I don’t pretend to be in any way symbolic of most men in my situation. Or even in caregiving circumstances that are similar. All human beings are different, and men are no exception.
What do you do to fill the emotional places in your brain or heart when your wife, while living, is no longer communicative or even aware of your presence?
Continue to seek ways to take care of yourself.
©2020 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved