With today’s installment of The Caregiver Series, Sally shares some of the emotions she experienced as she dealt with the responsibilities of her caregiving role.
My Second Husband – A Guest Post by Sally
All of the sudden, I was living a life I had never wanted to lead.
Previously I mentioned that after his stroke, we discovered his brain had been damaged for a while before the actual incident.  So, for example, while he was in the hospital, I learned he had not been paying bills.  As the creditors began to call me, and I tried to explain that the radiation had slowly destroyed his brain, I realized everything was in my hands now.
After months of rehabilitation I brought my “husband” home.
All I wanted was a normal life.  Of course, it would be a “new normal” but maybe, I thought, this would be the end of the drama.
We set up a hospital bed in our den with a baby monitor to my room – an upstairs master bedroom that wasn’t accessible to him any longer.  With his every noise, I would wake up and run downstairs to see what was wrong.  I was getting no sleep and trying to take care of him, a thirty-year-old house, a huge yard, and all of our finances and healthcare paperwork.
I realized that something had to give.
So I sold the house we had lived in for thirty years and with the support and help of a kind local builder, we bought a handicapped accessible smaller home.  The community even provided lawn care!  All I had to do was move us in.
Now.  Now, I thought.  We can finally be normal again.
I had been so busy up to this point that I had not even begun the stages of grief that I would eventually go through.  He and I were so sure we could fight and work our way back to some part of our old life.
So, we got settled into our new home.  Before he had his stroke, we had just purchased a small (and blessedly accessible!) vacation home in South Carolina.  We were ready to live the retired life.  We just had to get him stronger.
But the reality was that getting out was a major problem for us as his impulse control was essentially gone.  I quickly learned that I had to lock him in the car while I ran into places.  Simple tasks like grocery shopping were a major ordeal.
And he was so slow.
My patience wore thin.
Well-intended friends and family kept telling me that I needed to do more for myself.  Quite frankly, I’m not sure I had the energy to do anything of the sort.
Then one day after we had totally lost it with each other, I realized that my husband just might need time away from me.  He had always been the one who needed “alone time.”  I decided to get a sitter once in a while so we could spend some time apart.
That time apart was a good thing for us but, it also showed me just how much difference there is in the sick and the well.
It’s when I step back from his world of “sick” I realize just how much we are missing of our old life.
I think when I realized that, the anger began to seep in.  I was angry that our “golden years” were gone.  I was angry that I had to be responsible.  I was angry that I had to do all the work.  I did not like changing all the light bulbs, paying all the bills, pumping all the gas.  I got tired of always having to be the one to walk in the rain to get the car and pick him up so he would not get cold and wet while I was drenched.
So many of the things I once took for granted were gone.
Then I would look at him and all that he had lost and all that he was resigned to and I would feel so ashamed at my anger.  I would resolve to try harder to give him as “normal” of a life as I could.
It is very hard to look at your grown husband and see as a helpless child.
It humbles me.
By now, I’ve gone through anger, grief, hurt and loss.  Sometimes I feel as though I buried him and got a reincarnated version – my “second” husband.
* * * * * * *
If you have cared for a family member in a life-altering way, what are the range of emotions you experienced?

4 Responses to “The Caregiver Series : “My Second Husband””

  1. on 26 Nov 2012 at 3:18 pmMary Fisher

    As always, she’s my hero.

  2. on 26 Nov 2012 at 3:26 pmJulie

    Another great entry by Sally. I see so much of this in our situation. Watching it from a daughter-in-law’s perspective, though, I have learned so much. I have learned that “in sickness and in health” and “for better or worse” are in our vows for a reason and there are few things more absolutely beautiful than to see them lived out. I know my MIL would not choose her situation, but she has been a stellar example of what marriage is — not just the pretty parts. Even though you and my MIL are probably not even aware of it, younger eyes are watching and thankful for your love and sacrifice. It may not be normal, easy or pretty, but it is stunningly beautiful.

  3. on 26 Nov 2012 at 5:07 pmhot Nai Nai

    I thank Mary and I thank Julie….I am not a person that shares my feelings very easily but your sweet words made me happy that I have. Sometimes I feel guilty as if I am betraying my husband by writing all this but, hopefully it will help somebody else.

  4. on 10 Dec 2012 at 12:25 pmNancy H

    I am so proud to call you my friend. You make me want to be a better person!

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