Mission of Love and Pain
She gripped the steering wheel tightly, causing some erratic drifting across the south-bound lanes of the Interstate.
“You okay?” her husband asked. “You’re weaving.” He was in a lucid mood, and her heart and mind were frantic in their tangled states.
“I’m fine, honey…just a little tense about the upcoming trip.”
“You’ll be fine. You’re a great teacher, and they will see that.”
She momentarily glanced at him in the passenger seat. He had a small smile on his face as he stared into her eyes.
She smiled back but it was difficult fighting back tears…
My God, what am I doing? Please let it be the right thing. Her thoughts spun around, making her dizzy with their intensity. They had so many years of love, home, travel, children, and now she was living in a lie. It was the only way she could handle it. His Alzheimer’s was getting to the point where his lucid moments were infrequent, where he would not remember things he did, where his ‘bag’ emptied on the bed overnight, where he fell with some consistency, where he would not remember family members. His weight was down to just over one hundred pounds and his eating preferences consisted mostly of fast foods…
A teacher, she left him during the day with a home caregiver, a lovely lady who lifted some of the burden and stress, who related in the late afternoon at home the events of the day.
It had all begun some years after his retirement. He was told by his Mayo Oncologist that he had Stage Four Cancer – located in the bladder. Other doctors convened over the weeks that followed: one Urologist recommended bladder removal; another Oncologist thought the best way to go was Chemotherapy. The doctor group went first with the Chemo, and, miraculously, the cancer was gone. The Urologist still felt the bladder should be removed. That was the decision that changed her husband forever. Shortly after the removal of the bladder, the ugly Alzheimer’s came… Many thought that the bladder operation brought on the ‘A’ scourge.
Now, driving down the mountain to Phoenix, her thoughts were taking her places that made her heart crack, made her guilt demons come to haunt her. She remembered their lovely golf trips all over the world. She remembered the love and warmth of their time together with family and alone.
Now, she was taking him to a Nursing Home, and he thought he was going to a resort while she was away on a ‘teacher trip’. If he stayed in this lucid state, which was doubtful, he would immediately know the place was not a resort – he would recognize it for what it was, a ruse, and there would be problems.
She was almost in tears in their now silent drive, her thoughts now on the deception she was using…she did not want to deceive him, but the nursing home thought the transition would be easier if she did it this way.
She thought about love and betrayal, about the good times, about the awful stress she had been under. Was she a terrible person for putting him in a nursing home? Did love mean that, of the lovers, one needed no life of her own? Was she to sacrifice her life, her goals, for a man who would come to the point of not even knowing her? Did she truly love him? Yes, she truly loved him…or, she loved the man he used to be, the man he would never be again… On and on came the demons of thought…
By the time they arrived at the nursing home, he was again showing the clear signs of his Alzheimer’s – not remembering landmarks, not talking rationally. The staff at the ‘resort’ treated him as a special guest which seemed to please him. His wife gave him a goodbye hug but he did not particularly notice. The staff told her not to worry about him, that he would adjust…
She left the lovely circular driveway encasing beautiful flowers and drove only a few blocks. She pulled into a large department store parking lot, found a lonely spot where there were no other cars.
There, she released the sadness, the tears, heaving and squealing to her Deity, “Please, God, let me have done the right thing!”
She sat at the spot for about an hour, then went to her daughter’s home, a daughter who had been part of the ‘mission of love and pain’.
Flash Fiction (With some Truth)
Billy Ray Chitwood – February 12, 2016
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