My late husband was a special soul with a brilliant mind. His every spoken word was beautifully crafted. I was not the same way and didn’t see his gift for what it was. I remember being critical, because at some level, his willingness to love and feel so deeply brought out my own insecurities. I had always feared that I wasn’t enough. Over time though, he changed. I remained the same. A young woman in an ageing body, stubborn and unwilling to accept the good she had while it remained. The days of realisation dawned on me like a new sun but I soon came to understand that they weren’t to last. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s on January 1st, 2004. I was new again, dancing with my childhood sweetheart in a crowded school hall, posing for pictures I didn’t know were being taken. My mind is my camera and there are endless photos. I want to hold them close, just like I held him, but they are inside. Until my mind deteriorates.
And then I’ll lose my children, then I’ll lose my love. Or what is left of it.
One day, he sat, staring into space, not a single word escaping his lips. He was so brilliant that it was as if I could hear his mind, all the words bouncing off, coming together so lovely, as if they were meant to be from the start; like us. One day, the silence was deafening. At this point, I’d learnt to read his eyes and the way they crinkled at the corners, or didn’t crinkle at all. I’d learnt to read his nose and the way it turned up at the tip. I’d learnt to read his lips but they no longer formed words. Any words. I longed to hear his silent words. I’d learnt to read his ears, and the way it looked when he listened. But they were never open. His carefully set features were a constant message but they read blank, reminiscent of a new language he hadn’t quite gotten the hang of. “Hello, hello, hello.” “Hello, is anybody home?” “Hello, I miss you.” “Hello, I love you.” “Hello, hello, hello.”
I spoke to him in childish words, because perhaps, he was only a young being, still blooming, not withering. I could be his protector, making sure he wasn’t picked too soon. But how soon is too soon? The soil of this earth seemed to rot him from the inside, turning colours into varied shades of back and white. “I’m sorry” I told him, “I’m sorry that your mind is turning against you. Why are you killing yourself with your own weapon?”
I imagined the words settling on his skin, the ones he’d want to remember, being stored away for short term use. I’d speak their unique syllables and they’d be released from their confines. Could I teach his ailing mind to be brilliant again?
“Can you wake up? You’re here but you’re not and that’s so painful for me. Watching you go in plain sight. Do you understand? Every day for the last thirty years, you’ve loved me in every way possible. And maybe you didn’t know it, but I loved you too. Now I’m just another person or thing. Can you tell the difference? Our memories and connections are what make us special. You’ve lost that, so I’m trying to hold on for the both of us. I can’t go from being your everything to something unrecognisable. I don’t know how to do that and neither did you until the disease took over your mind.”
For a brief moment, it was as if he had come alive again. Every single expression under the sun was visible in his normally vacant face, a clear reminder that he was there yet not. Eventually, I’d have to face the inevitable- acceptance. The man I loved would not be back, so there was only one thing left to do: the letting go.
I have lost my children. I have lost my love. I just sit in silence. Let the pictures soak out of televisions.