Saturday, September 15, 2012


Change is good, people say. Change can also be bad, sad, distressing. Change can even, I suppose, be neutral.

I've known people who adapt easily - they see change as a challenge to be met, a goal to be attained, an element of life to be embraced. I'm not one of those people. I can adapt, but I have to do it in my own time, in my own way. For example, I can release objects that I've acquired or held dear, but I usually have to live with the idea for a while. It's almost as if I have to begin to think about letting go, and then my brain begins to slowly cut the connection until, one day, I can release that object to go on to its next habitation, wherever that might be.

The past 17 months have brought more change to my life than I can process very easily. Physically, my new hip prevents me from doing some of the things I've taken for granted most of my life. I can't sit cross-legged on the floor for more than a few minutes without feeling distinct discomfort. Previously, I could sit until my leg fell asleep, and then I'd complain about the annoyance. Now I have to get my body into a more comfortable position, quit what I was doing while sitting in the floor, and try to quell the frustration that I feel. Not a big deal, but I'm not adapting well.

On a more emotional level, I'm experiencing the almost daily change in how my life is ordered, and the ebb and flow of Jim's physical and mental limitations.

Today, with the help of my son, my step-son, and my brother-in-law, I completed moving from my and Jim's well-loved home into the new house that Jim will never share with me. That was hard, really hard. Jim loved that house; and, because he loved it so, I came to love it, too. Every corner held a memory. Rooms we had painted together, window coverings we had hung together, bathrooms we had remodeled together, plants we had nurtured to maturity, additions Jim had made while I "supervised" and served as his "gofer." The back yard we enjoyed when weather permitted, and, most poignantly, the deck where we exchanged our vows of love, celebrating our wedding with friends and family. Today, as the last of the lawn furniture, the potted plants, the papers, books, and Jim's clothing were removed, as I bade this well-loved home goodbye, I felt a deep sense of loss and sorrow. Jim's clothes are packed to be donated to the Vietnam Veterans of America, and I like to think that he is providing for those less fortunate than we have been. But I held onto a shirt that he particularly loved, as well as the navy blue blazer he wore when we were married. I can't let those go just yet. Maybe I'll never be able to. Change is hard.

Today, as I sat with Jim, helping him eat, his face suddenly became blank and his eyes were far away. When I asked if he was okay, if he hurt anywhere, if he didn't feel well, he said only, "My mind is gone. I can't remember." I asked what he was trying to remember, and he said, "Me. You." Fighting back tears for the second time today, I got out my iPad and showed him pictures of us, our wedding, our friends, our children, our grandchildren. I talked about that beautiful, special day, our joy, our love, our life together. He smiled and said, "I love you." He finished lunch, and almost immediately fell asleep in his chair. The aides wheeled him away to put him in bed for a nap, and I came back to this home that Jim will never see. Change is sad.

Today is the one-year anniversary of Jim being admitted to the memory care home. A year ago, I still harbored secret hopes that one day he would come home, that it couldn't be the home we loved and fell in love, where the stairs and the opportunities for him to come to harm were obstacles that we couldn't overcome, but that we would make a new home, in a new place, together. Even then, when he was more aware of where he was, when he was angry with me, when he would yell and rail against life and against me, even then, even then... I hoped. Wherever Jim and I could be together, that would be home. Together, we could weather that change.

Today, I know that home exists in two-hour increments, two or three times a day, when I drive to be with Jim, to help him with his meals, to hold his hand, to sit with him and talk about things we've done, when I edit my day's activities to not mention the cat he doesn't know I have, the house he doesn't know I bought, the move he doesn't know I made. For two hours at a time - sometimes only an hour, sometimes a little more - for that time I am home, for that time I am content, I am almost happy. Home is where my heart is, and my heart is with Jim.

That will never change.