The Day Everything Changed
When someone you love ages, you don’t often notice the incremental changes the years bring. Watching him walk up the hill that morning, my only thought was, “Here comes Chuck.” And I smiled in anticipation of what he would say when he joined me. It was all magnificently normal.
Until I noticed that he was shuffling through the gravel as if his canvas shoes were filled with cement.Read more
Go Inward, into Your Proper Darkness
Let go of the past.
When Chuck taught Julius Caesar to his high school students in Chicago, he would challenge them to cite three consecutive words from the play, and then he would identify the act and scene from which the words came, the character who spoke them, and to whom. A few weeks ago when we were filling out our absentee ballots, Chuck began to weep because he could not remember his last name.Read more
Chuck also experienced delusions, some of which were elaborate. One day in January 2004, I entered Room 30 and found him working on a children’s jigsaw puzzle. Although he was still in his pajamas at 2:00 p.m., he looked very normal that day—legs crossed, holding a puzzle piece in his hand while studying the pieces on the card table. Classical music played on his radio. I sat down and noticed a pile of clothes next to his wardrobe.
“Why are those clothes on the floor?” I asked.Read more
One dark morning in March, I boarded a Seattle Metro bus feeling terribly depressed. I walked down the mud-streaked aisle and slumped into a rear seat, hoping no one would sit next to me. The bus reeked of wet wool and mothballs. A noisy heater blasted hot air across my legs, and raindrops slid down the window.Read more
The Public Is Not Allowed in Linen Closets
Chuck continued to be brave even while living in the clamp of dementia. He got up every morning, did the best he could, and didn’t complain. I wanted to be brave like him. But in my life as a caregiver, my way of being brave had to be different.
For me, being brave began with waking each morning to an empty space next to me in bed and getting up without rupturing my heart.Read more
What It’s Like Inside My Brain
Chuck gave me an obvious clue about his condition on the day Sharky was born, but once again I missed it. On June 30, 2002, Chuck and I stayed in a hotel in Olympia so we could be present at Lillie’s Caesarean section, scheduled for 7:00 a.m. the next day. Chuck didn’t sleep all night and was exhausted in the morning. So I drove to the hospital alone to attend Sharky’s birth.Read more
The Ides of March
During his time at St. Thomas, I had come to love the “new Chuck,” who was simply a different manifestation of the “old Chuck.” They were interwoven parts of the same man, and I loved the Chuck who sat before me in his wheelchair as much as the one who had stood beside me at the Connecticut waterfall the day we promised to be husband and wife “for as long as our love shall last.” Well, it had lasted a good long time: forty-one years.Read more