It’s a strange road you lead when you’re a full-time caregiver / spouse. The days seem to fill with things that have nothing to do with you…but are so important that you find there is little time left at the end of the day…to be you. That was how it was going after the holidays. It was time for George to start his treks to his various doctor appointments. Getting the appointments getting George ready for and to the appointments and then the regular daily chores seems to blur the months together.
I found that it was Valentine’s Day. I had planned a lunch out with my sister and her husband so George would feel the change in the daily routine. Before I got up…George had left the bedroom early and gone to the kitchen to prepare his tea and bagel. His routine for breakfast has been set for quite some time. I have been pleased that he wakes each morning to remember the routine. But as the months go by the routine has been changed from a breakfast and tea for us both…down to a toaster bagel and tea just for him. I’m fine with that, the doctor has advised he keep doing small chores and the easy breakfast keeps his mind ticking away. Sometimes he leaves the tea on a forgotten counter, or the bagel in the toaster, but it’s the thought process that counts.
So I was happy when he returned with tea in hand and warm bagel wrapped in a paper towel and said; “Happy Valentines Day, Francy.” It was a pleasant surprise that he had remembered the day without my coaching him. I wasn’t feeling well. A small allergy had blown into a sinus infection with swollen itchy eyes…so I was nursing myself and feeling totally off the beam. But the tone of George’s voice brought me back to the blessing that I still have him by my side and he still remembers my name and the extra special day.
Oh, the years that have gone before were so different. George was quite smitten with Valentine’s Day. He would always bring me a sweet piece of jewelry; some years expensive and other years modest…but a remembrance that I still cherish to this day. He would have a fancy card, flowers and usually a dinner out. Sometimes we would go to a special Valentine function or dance and he would dress to the nine’s in his tux or dinner jacket. I remember all those years; I have to remember them because he has forgotten them. So, I often remind him of one of our sweet adventures when he is in a sour mood. And I remind myself when I join him in a particularly difficult day.
I got up that morning and wrapped myself in my robe and grumbled to myself as I scuffed my way down the hall to the kitchen. Thinking of making my own tea and taking a bevy of pills and eye drops to get myself well again. As I rounded the corner and entered the room…there was a large piece of paper propped up on the counter by our fish tank. At first I couldn’t really focus on what it was because my eyes were so swollen and so I had to move closer to view it.
There in front of me was a handmade Valentine card from a man who does not have an ounce of art talent in his body. I cried of course; cried tears that really had more meaning then just the card he had made, the tears were for how even when our life has changed so much…there is still love.
George had asked me to take him out to get a card that week. But my eyes were so bad I did not want to drive. I had told myself to remember to ask Cheryl to help him do a card for me on the computer, but that had also gotten forgotten in the midst of the daily routines. So when George got up that morning he was without a card and decided to take the matter into his own hands. He went up to my office and found some art paper and came down to the kitchen and found an ad flyer on the table with gifts for Valentines on it. He carefully cut out the jewelry from the ad and glued it to the paper and made his own card. I suppose when you read this you think it was a sweet thing to do. But you would not understand the many steps all of this took…it took him a couple of hours to do the project. While I was sleeping he was busy cutting away and pasting. He had to put all the thoughts together, remember the tasks, find the objects to cut, glue, and paste and then put a theme of a card together. It was by far the most complicated task that he had done in months. There were not tears of sadness and loss…for once, there were tears of joy for his creative self that was trying so hard to come to the top of his brain.
I have said it before but I feel my mother put it in words that I shall always relate to; as she aged into her 100th year she said she was becoming so upset with her daily regression. She shared with me; “Remember how a young baby starts to learn things and every day the mother is filled with pride and joy at a new ability the child has added? First it’s the baby’s eyes begin to follow movement, then they turn over, then they hold up their head and start to sit. Then the crawling and walking and talking come and you can barely keep up with the changes. Each new step is a mother’s rejoice. Well I am doing just the opposite. Each day I seem to lose ability. Little by little I can feel my body go backwards, getting weaker and weaker.” That is how it is now with George’s brain, day by day little pieces of his brain retreat and he becomes less of who is was as a person all his life. But this time; he was able to reach down and become something more. It was a joy on a day that like all other days except for its name of St Valentine’s Day. I think somewhere mother is rejoicing in George’s day of creative power…and certainly St Valentine is giving us a wink.
There will be a Valentine’s Day that I will be without George and when that day comes I am not going to remember all the fancy presents, flowers and dances he used to take me to…nope. I am going to remember this card of love that he worked so hard to piece together step by step…so he could reveal his love for me.
How lucky am I?