Parallel Universe

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A few days ago I stumbled upon a theory that the Hadron Collider has flung the universe into a parallel dimension. Which would explain so much.

Those little blackouts in my memory.

Driving, I cannot remember where I’m going. Jotting down a list of three necessities I forget the last two by the time I’ve written the first on the notepad. Asking a friend to meet me at the Banana Hut for a burger, and then waiting at the Surfside Burger Stand until the friend figures it out and joins me. Waking in the night and not knowing where I am, that particular sensation morphing into an old reoccurring dream of someone standing beside my bed.

These are a few of my least favorite things.

So, what is happening to me? Are these the first, terrifying symptoms of dementia. Which would really piss me off because at sixty-eight I couldn’t even call it early-onset dementia anymore, right? Just straight-up, run-of-the-mill dementia that comes with the natural aging process.

Fuck that!

Nobody in my family has ever had dementia. Don’t get me wrong, most of us are bat-shit crazy, and complete pains in the ass to deal with for more than an hour at a time. But we’re not prone to losing our memories.

This paradigm shift in my personal reality is the work of, well, life and of life’s eternal sidekick – stress. Or, even if it’s not, I can combat stress. Dementia? Not so much. So roll with me on this one.

When Jack went into skilled nursing, I thought my life would be less demanding. These expectations of mine as he and I travel the path of his illness so often leave me rubbing my forehead and asking myself, “Who’s delusional now, Pam?”

Most of you know we worked for months to get Jack into a skilled nursing facility in our area. This was not possible given the level and complexity of the care he needs, coupled with the fact that the VA is his health insurance provider. Eight months into the search, after a particularly bad fall, I refused to bring him home from the hospital. This put the VA on the hot-seat and he was admitted into the Community Living Center attached to the San Francisco VA hospital.

The CLC is a top-notch facility with an entire hospital of specialists literally right next door. It is also just under three hundred miles south of me, on a long and winding road which is occasionally impassable in the winter. I anticipated driving down to see Jack once a month or so, of being his partner on this final leg of his journey.

He’s been at the facility for eight months now. I’ve been down to see him twice.

I can give you the reason for this In a nutshell, pun absolutely intended. Jack’s delusion is that he is going back to Vietnam to be cared for 24/7 by lovely young women who will grant his every wish. This delusion, is, no doubt, partially fueled by his desire for redemption. He spent a few months of his youth, as Jack himself told the young women we encountered when we visited Vietnam in 2000, “Killing their grandfathers and grandmothers and burning their villages.”

Now, I’ve been married to a combat Marine for thirty years, I’m fully aware that this particular delusion is also fueled by the desire for healing, in the belief that the special talents of these young, nubile young women will restore him to his former potency and return to him the control he desperately craves. See there, how clever I am with prose? I explained the reasoning behind Jack’s entire delusion and never once used a term that rhymes with DJ.

It’s a bit more than that, of course. It’s also about an eighteen year old Marine who, fifty-three years ago, died on the jungle floor and has been pissed ever since at the medic who brought him back.

In the end, the reasons for the delusion, while compelling, are beside the point. It takes two people to help Jack move from wheelchair to bed. He cannot feed or dress himself. His vision is very nearly gone. His speech fluctuates between difficult to understand and incomprehensible. His tremors are becoming increasingly violent. He’s still Jack. Under all those challenges, his courage is as extraordinary as ever. He gets up every day, interacts with the staff and the other veterans, attends activities from bocce ball to volley ball to yoga. He does what he can to participate in life. But he cannot return to Asia.

Currently, he calls me a half-dozen or so times a day. At least one of these calls is to demand that I sell the house, send him enough money for a first class plane ticket,and  get him to Asia. I do my best to distract him, but he’s as determined – as stubborn– as ever. If I do not do these things he will divorce me, force the sale of the house, change his power-of-attorney so that I am no longer his executor. He’s met with an attorney who comes to the facility to assist veterans with legal matters and he has already removed me as his first point of contact with the VA.

He has made it clear that he will not see me until I have met his demands and can show him proof of such. My presence and my inability to participate in this particular delusion are a trigger for his anger. I’ve been down to see him only twice since April. Both visits were heavily punctuated with these demands and plenty of anger when I could not comply. Both times I returned home with a weird sort of stress flu, spent a few days in bed with my belly in an uproar. Worse, each time I left Jack refusing to speak with me and more determined than ever to get to Asia. Right now he takes my calls. This was not the case a couple of weeks ago and it may not be the case tomorrow. But I spoke with him this morning and he did not yell, “She’s dead,” when the nurse told him his wife was on the line. He did demand that I sell the house.

So, you’re all caught up. More or less. Subject to change on an hourly basis.

I am grieving for my husband at the same time that I am attempting to continue to do my best for him. I am also trying to keep my own head above water, searching for employment.  It turns out that employers are not lining up to hire a sixty-eight year old who’s spend the past decade as a care provider. But more than looking for work, I am remaking my life. Building new friendships, making new plans that do not include Jack. That cannot include him. I struggle daily to convince myself that my happiness does not harm Jack.

So, in an effort to combat a slide into my very own parallel universe, I embarked on a mission of self-care. I downloaded an app and am meditating twenty minutes morning and night. Which, two weeks into the program, might actually be helping. I walked all the way across the kitchen this morning and managed to write down all three items I need to pick up later today at Costco.

So, you know. Progress.

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Death by a Thousand Cuts

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With Jack safe and well-cared for in the San Francisco VA community living center (skilled nursing), I should be relaxing into a less chaotic and demanding life.

But, somehow, despite my attempts to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, my center swirls, shifts with each day’s small challenges. Losing a partner of over twenty-five years is tough.  And when that spouse is still alive and swings wildly between loving you and hating you, often within the same day, the grieving process is complicated beyond comprehension.

My financial situation is safe now, but at the time of Jack’s death, that will change radically. Jack has a terminal disease whose progress I cannot stop. So, in addition to the emotional grief of losing him, there is the worry that at the time of his death, I will be forced to sell my home.

So, while Jack struggles to adjust to his new circumstances, I too try to create a new life for myself and wonder daily if I will be able to do so. I’m sixty-eight. I need a job I can do and do well until I am at least eighty.

Nothing daunting about that challenge.

Still, it’s not the big hits that hurt,  it’s the tiny cuts.

For example:

For the last eighteen months Jack was home, he had an Alert One medical alert system. A little button that hung around his neck on a lanyard. It went off automatically if he fell, and he could push the button to get help if I was not home. This allowed me to go to the store or run short errands while knowing he could call for help if he fell. And he did fall. A lot. If you’re considering getting one of these medical alerts you should know that, if the company calls in a request for help to get you or your loved one up from a fall, you will be charged about $200 by the emergency team. If, however, you call 911 yourself, there is no charge when the EMT comes to get you back on your feet and access the damage of the latest fall.

I do not know why this is. No one at either Alert One or the billing unit has ever been able to explain it.

Jack has been in skilled nursing since April. I don’t think it is much of an exaggeration to say that I was a hot mess for a good long time after he left. However, for each and every one of the seven months since he’s been gone, Alert One has hit my checking account  for $60. Each month I called and told them Jack was no longer in the home and we no longer needed the service. Each month they informed me that they could not cancel the service unless I returned the unit – a small button on a lanyard and a charger. Without the return of the unit, the only way to stop the service was to pay Alert One the replacement cost – $559.95.

Each month I paid the $60 for a service I did not need, because I simply could not afford the larger $559.65 charge.

I know.

I’m not proud of the way I handled any of this, but honestly, there was so much going on with getting Jack settled in the VA facility, with trying to figure out my new financial situation, that I just paid the $60 and continued to search for the unit. It was all the energy I had to deal with the situation at the time.

In an attempt to bring in a little money, I am turning what used to be my en suite bedroom into an AirB&B rental. While cleaning Jack’s old room, in which I am now settled, I found the Alert One unit. At the back of a desk drawer, in a blue hospital sock/slipper, under a pile of Jack’s medical records. No idea why Jack put it there, but at this point, who cares? I found the thing.

So, I called Alert One, spoke with supervisor, Tiffany, got detailed instructions on how to return the unit to them, and paid $23.75 to send it on its way.

That was on October 11th.

Three days ago, I went on-line to check my bank account and Alert One had hit my account for $559.95.

I called them.  Gave them the name of the person who signed for the unit at their end.

The unit had a broken prong and therefore I must pay the full price for its replacement. So sorry and please thank your husband for his service to our country.

$60 for seven months is $420. Plus $559.95 is $979.95.

For a service I informed them I was not using and asked them to cancel.

This particular cut is deep, and while it is about the money. Of course it is. That’s a lot for me to just throw away, or more accurately, have stolen from me. But, it’s also about the rudeness, the greed of a company whose business is supposed to be helping the elderly and instead preys upon the very people they purport to serve. A company who actually had ethics would, it seems to me, have allowed me to make arrangements, when I first called and cancelled the service, to pay off the cost of the unit on a monthly basis. They might even have charged a more believable replacement fee for the unit.

This cut feels deep. So, I’m bleeding on Alert One a bit here. Advising against using their service and frankly, my recommendation if you use any of these medical alert services is to set up a special checking account for the sole purpose of paying them. That way, when your loved one no longer needs the service, you can simply close that account. And, yes, I am aware that if you have a loved one who is falling frequently, the last thing you need is to spend additional time and energy to set up a special account in order to stop the crooks from stealing your money. But that appears to be the best option.

As for me, this too shall pass. Life is good regardless of greedy companies or worries about money. Jack taught me that best revenge is to live a good life. Well, I paraphrase.

Jack’s exact words were to live a good life and bury the bodies deep.

 

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Moving On

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It’s difficult for me to write about Jack these days. As his wife of almost thirty years and as an author who’s written three books about this scarred and glorious warrior, that’s an odd statement, an unsettling realization, a bit of a shock. Nonetheless, to write without hitting as close to the truth as I am able, is a waste of time – both mine and the readers – so today, with this post, I expose to you a difficult personal truth.

I have moved on from Jack emotionally, begun the journey of reinventing, or perhaps rediscovering, myself as an individual rather than as half of a partnership.

Over three months ago, Jack was transported by ambulance from our local hospital, three hundred miles down the coast, to the San Francisco VA medical center. Progressive Supranuclear Palsy is a bitch of disease, one that attacks the body, mind, and personality of the afflicted. For Jack’s safety and for mine, it was time for him to be provided more care than I could give in our home. Because of the level of care he needed, and due to the cruel way that skilled nursing placements are accomplished, a bed could not be found for him while he was in the home. The VA social worker and I tried this route for over six months, as Jack fell more and more frequently, as both his health and mine declined, as our relationship split apart with the demands being made upon it – no facility would accept him.  We went further and further afield. Again and again his application was denied because the nursing home could not provide the level of care he needed.

And, no, the irony of that was not lost on me – the person attempting to care for him.

In the end, he fell eight times in seven days. The final fall was a dozy. His lower back and ankle both battered and bruised to match his previously injured side, shoulders, right thigh, and the back of his head. When the EMTs came to get him up, I insisted they take him to the hospital. At the hospital, I refused to bring him home.

That felt like a betrayal of unfathomable proportions. And yet, it was necessary for his safety, and for mine. Love is tough, as is the will to survive. I stuck to my decision. That placed Jack in an entirely new category for the VA. Suddenly, he was their problem. Fifteen days later, the community living center attached to the San Francisco VA agreed to accept him as a resident. It’s where I had been trying to get him for six months, it’s the only place he will get the continuing care that he needs.

I was relieved.

Jack was angry.

He screamed down the halls, “Help, I’m being held naked against my will. Call the police.”

The mere sound of my voice sent him into a rage that required he be medicated. He wanted to come home. He threw whatever he could lay his hands on at the nurses, ranted at friends, instructed every visitor to go to our house and retrieve his passport. His plan was to fly to Danang where he still believes he can lead a life of luxury cared for by a half-dozen young Vietnamese women. The hospital handled this by overmedicating him, which made the situation worse.

I continued to refuse to bring to him home. I learned to visit when his combat vet buddies were also visiting. These guys provided him the grounding he needed to allow me into the room with him without screaming. Still, his fifteen days in the hospital were rough, on both of us. On the day he left he asked the discharge nurse for a kiss.

She said, “Now Mr. Jones, your wife is right here, she’ll give you a kiss.”

“Fuck her. Don’t let her touch me.”

And that was our goodbye.

Once at the San Francisco VA hospital for evaluation before being moved next door to the skilled nursing facility, he refused to speak with me on the phone. Screamed obscenities when I left the message that I loved him. I comforted myself with humor. At least he remembered who I was.

A week later he was transferred to the Community Living Center. He promptly escaped. Three times. Police were called. Mental health professionals were alerted. He was returned to the CLC. The third time the doctor told me if he escaped again, he would be sent back to the hospital for further evaluation and sent to a locked ward.

I asked the social worker to explain to Jack the consequences of his next attempted escape. I insisted on talking to him and explained to him how the system would handle him if he continued to sneak out the door in an attempt to get to Danang and his harem of young caregivers.

He settled down. Settled into life at the CLC.

He called and hung up several times. I called him.

He said, “Why are you calling me. I don’t want to talk to you. I’m mad.”

“So am I,”I said. “But I love you.”

He hung up.

But, over the next few weeks, he called more often. At first, he just barked orders. Send me this, or box up that and get it to me today. But slowly he began to tell me about his days. What he was eating. That he won at bocce ball, or balloon volley ball, or black jack. Or that he lost because the other guy cheated. He called the afternoon he got back from AT&T park and a Giants game, the day he made pies in occupational therapy,  the morning he had grits with his eggs.

He asked for me to come and visit. The social worker and psychiatrist agreed that I could come down. I made reservations and told him the date. He called every hour with a list of places I was going to take him. Each time I explained that I was coming to spend time with him, to visit him, that we were not going to be going into the city. He called and asked if we were going to have sex when I came down. I said no, we would not be having sex. He hung up. Called back.

“There’s no reason for you to come. It’s too much money. Don’t waste your time.” Hung up.

I waited, figured I’d see how things went between then and the time I was schedule to visit. The social worker called to say he demanded to see an attorney so he could file for a divorce. Of course, I knew he could not go through with the threat, and that he was truly not in his right mind. Nonetheless, I canceled the reservations.

That was several weeks ago.

He has given up the idea of divorce, or at least has topped mentioning it to me or the social worker. He calls six to ten times a day, says he is looking forward to seeing me the first week in September when I am now scheduled to drive down and spend the day with him. He still thinks he is going to Danang, everyone involved in his care is wary that he is playing all of us, biding his time, and waiting for his chance to make his big escape. In his situation, I think a plan B of escape is not a terrible coping tool, as long as he doesn’t follow through and end up harming himself or getting himself moved to a locked ward.

As for me, I make whatever arrangements I can to give him the highest quality of life available– set up a laundry service, get him a new phone and have his contact list transferred, speak with doctors and social workers and other care providers. But, I have moved on. And by that I mean I have accepted that I am no longer responsible for his every need, the tone of my day is no longer dictated by his mood, I am beginning to see what the remainder of my life might look like.

At the time of Jack’s death I will need to find a fulltime job if I am to keep my house. While I have both a bachelor’s degree and a two year high school teaching credential, it has been twenty years since I held a job. At sixty-seven I need training if I am to remain in pricey Humboldt County. So, I am taking a summer-long class in medical billing and coding. The class is horrendously complex, tedious, and demanding, but I am doing well in it, learning what I need to know to find a full time job at its conclusion. I hope. I am also turning my en suite bedroom and bath into a privately accessed AirB&B room.

I am cultivating friendships with individuals who are not combat veterans or their significant others. That sounds peculiar, I know, but for thirty years, every friend I’ve had, other than my writing buddies, has fit that narrow description. Of course, I still love combat vets, but, honestly, I am so done with the challenges PTSD. I need a break. I want some friends whose challenges are not related to something that happened in a steamy jungle fifty years ago.

Hell, I want challenges that don’t originate in a freaking war zone.

I’m moving on.

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The dying of the light

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I began grieving for Jack almost ten years ago, when the first tell-tell signs of his disease first showed themselves. We lived then on the edge of the jungle, a twenty minute walk to the beach and a five minute stroll to the river where, in the dry season, I waded into waters which did in fact occasionally house crocodiles.  This was in the country of Panama. If you’ve read Clueless Gringos in Paradise, you know how we got there.

Relocation therapy is what the counselors call it.

Jack always said, “Every five years I change jobs, locations, or wives. Often all three.”

I’ve been with Jack for almost thirty years now.

“I messed up,” he’d tell people, “went out on permanent disability from my job, and this wife just moves with me when I relocate. I can’t get rid of her.”

He was kidding. Partly kidding.

Where was I going with this? I’m not quite myself right now, am at that stage where I have a check list before I leave the house. Keys? Purse? Dog inside and safe? Hair combed? Shoes on my feet? Yesterday morning I carefully swallowed my Tuesday morning pills, made my tea, let the dog out. After which, I slowly and with great pride in how I was remembering to take care of myself, took my Tuesday evening pills as well. When talking to friends I realize, usually just as I’m finishing the story, that just two minutes ago I told them the exact same thing.

I remember where I was going with the Panama story.

Because Jack’s Progressive Supranuclear Palsy has, as he himself says, “eaten away at him one piece at a time,” my grieving process has been long and slow. In Panama, when Jack suddenly lost his sense of direction and when his PTSD rages became more and more frequent, I was convinced we needed to get back to the states and VA medical care as quickly as possible. During our five years in Arkansas I often pulled the car over and cried, grieved for the husband who was disappearing before my eyes. Those were the years when Jack fell more and more, became increasingly irrational and jealous, demanded more and more attention from me as he became less and less able to get out and do things on his own. Arkansas is where, after a series of accidents, he stopped driving, gave up his license.

We’ve been back in my hometown of Eureka, in northern California, for about two and a half years. During this time, he has gone from walking unaided, to using a walker, to a wheelchair. At first he was somewhat mobile in the chair, able to get himself from room to room. Then he was not. The VA got him an attendee operated power chair. I, of course, was the attendee. He could not move one inch in that chair without my help.

He developed double-vision. Then his sight began to slip away. His tremors, at first controlled by dopamine that can be so effective in Parkinsons, came back. With a vengeance. He had more and more trouble feeding himself. We went to finger food, then smoothies. Now he is being fed a spoonful at a time by helpers who never pay enough attention to make him happy, who feed too fast or too slow, or can’t understand that that particular grunt means applesauce and not minced turkey. His speech is slurred to the point where communication is difficult at best. It takes two people, two strong-backed people, to move him from bed to chair.

As he lost more and more control, more and more physical and mental ability, I grieved. There came a point, about six months ago, when his day-to-day care was simply so exhausting, when he became so demanding and unable to understand that I could only do so much, when his  talk of moving to Asia and his inability to accept the reality of his situation – of our situation – simply overwhelmed me. He fell into me. Accused me daily of cheating on him. Yelled at me because I had it so much better than he had it. Then, at the end of days when it seemed I could do nothing right for him, every night, when I put him to bed, he said, “Thank you for everything you did for me today. I love you.”

And this was the worst moment of my day. I came to hate those rout words.

“Don’t you dare say you love me,” I wanted to shout at him. “Love isn’t words. Love is fucking action. It’s not demanding something every single time my butt hits my recliner. It’s not accusing me of cheating on you every single damn time I’m out of your sight. It’s not throwing your plate across the table because the bacon is too crisp.”

Every night I said, “I love you, too. See you when I see you.”

Every day ended in anger.

In about an hour, I am meeting the hospital discharge social worker. We will walk into Jack’s hospital room and tell him that a VA ambulance is picking him up at 1:00 today to transport him first to the neurology ward of the San Francisco VA hospital, and then to the Long Term Care facility next door. San Francisco is almost three hundred miles from me.  He’s been in our local hospital for fifteen days.

It turns out that anger, exhaustion, and a tight daily schedule do a pretty good job of burying grief. I’m learning that when that combination is taken away, that same grief, long buried, blooms full-blown into the soul.

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Garden of Zen

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Sanity is a relative term.

As a caregiver, getting out of the house is difficult and often impossible, so one of the things I do to preserve what’s left of my mental stability is to correspond with friends. People, by the way, often say they wish they could do more to support Jack and I as we deal with this Parkinsonian nightmare. Their texts and emails are actually the best thing they can do.

Their short notes are windows which allow fresh air to blow away the stagnation that is care giving. Their words bring a brief, but essential taste of life outside the prison of Progressive Supernuclear Palsy. Their concern is a reminder that life does indeed go on, that somewhere the sun is shining, or the wind is howling, or rain is falling gently on mountainsides. Reading their notes, I remember that people are dealing with their own challenges, and finding their own moments of joy. One such friend is my old dive buddy Hugh who, with his lovely wife, lives in British Columbia. While our scuba diving days are over, we have remained good friends in no small part because of the many incredible moments we shared in the Mexican Caribbean.

I do my best to include in my return emails to Hugh some non-Jack related news. I do a poor job meeting this goal.  Most of my missives are nothing more than a litany of whining complaints. Last week, in an attempt to include one simple paragraph that did not mention Jack or the VA, I told Hugh about my plans to work in the garden. I do not remember the exact sentence, but I used the term Zen gardening. My buddy responded by gently pointing out that it might be an exercise in futility to attempt to maintain a Zen garden in the presence of my 140 pound dog whose feet are as large as dinner plates.  Certainly I did not need to set myself up for more futility in my life.

His comment made me laugh. Something, by the way, which I crave. A friend doesn’t need to read or respond to my rants. I’m only venting, blowing the bad juju out of my system. But, make me laugh and I will love you forever. His comment also made me realize that I had not properly explained what I meant by Zen gardening.

As often happens with communication between friends, thinking about my response forced me to clarify my own thoughts, and I stumbled upon a somewhat disturbing truth.

My idea of Zen isn’t that different from what western psychiatry calls disassociation.

Let me, in my usual rambling manner, explain.

My yard is small. I rarely trim anything. I’m serious. I viciously attack the wild morning glory that threatens to consume the entire yard, have been known to shout, “Get off of her!” as I rip the clinging tendrils from ferns and lilies. But, everything else, I let grow where it chooses. Espaliered trees and shrubs make my stomach actually ache just to look at them. I like my garden blousy and overgrown and just a little wild.

So, how on earth does this image fit the concept of Zen gardening?

Those of you who follow this blog know I have a bad back. Scoliosis as a child, full-spinal fusion, chronic back pain now that I’m old enough for arthritis to set into the two discs of my back that actually bend. My gardening abilities, therefore, have been severely curtailed. No more hauling wheelbarrows of dirt, or lifting pots. Even digging a hole big enough to plant a small tree takes me several days of effort, and a few extra doses of Aleve.

This physical challenge has led to what I call Zen gardening. Even with my handy three-legged stool, and with almost everything in the yard in pots and horse troughs and anything else I can find that raises the plants off the ground, I can only work for short periods of time. I have learned to ignore the weeds and overgrown lawn and focus on the tiny portion of the yard on which I am currently working. I deliberately fall into the experience of the pale green unfurling fronds of my Australian fern in its cobalt pot. I block out the dandelions in the background and the pony-sized hole the dog has dug under the camellia bush behind the shiny blue pot.

I narrow my focus, one might even say disassociate, from the reality outside what I choose to experience. These momentary respites are what I call Zen gardening.

It occurs to me that I do this all day long. Not just in the garden.

For instance, it takes about seven minutes for Jack to get up from his lift chair, shuffle sideways two steps, turn and lower himself into the wheelchair. I no longer brace him in any way when he does this. He has fallen into me enough times that I have finally learned my lesson. During these transfers, I deliberately step back out of the fall zone. I stand, or sit, and wait for him to get where he’s going, or for him to fall at which time I call the fire men to come and get him up.

These transfers happen dozens of times a day. To and from the toilet. To and from the table.  To and from bed. I use these brief period of time to remove myself from reality. I don’t know how else to explain it. I re-experience clouds gathering over the ocean from a walk earlier in the week. I see again early morning rain on a fat succulent in a wrought iron pot. I remember a Caribbean dive when a pair of spotted eagle rays swept past and when I reached out and entreated them to return, to my joy they turned in a wide fluid curve and flew through the turquoise water directly to me to play and frolic.

In those moments, I am no longer in an overheated house watching my husband work his way inch-by-careful-inch from one chair to another. I have escaped the prison of Parkinsons.

I do not know if this ability to mentally step outside reality is a blessing or a curse. Is it Zen or is it insanity? I do not know. But I believe it is a necessity for me right now. To paraphrase John Lennon, I will continue to pursue whatever gets me through the night.

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Delusions

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The thing about delusions is that, to the person experiencing them, they are reality. We have a couple of real delusional gems going on at our house right now.

Extreme jealousy and paranoia and anger are all insidious in Jack’s disease – this godawful Progressive Supernuclear Palsy. In his world, I have a whole other life, one which, it must be admitted, is far more exciting and satisfying than my day-to-day care of him. No amount of reasoning, offering of proof, or even staying within his sight will ever convince him that I am not cheating on him. This is especially aggravating to me as, in our thirty year marriage, I have never, not once, been sexually unfaithful, while Jack has pursued a fairly large number of other women, and actually had sex with a half-dozen or so.

So, yes, it pisses me off that he’s telling the neighbors, his buddies and caregivers at daycare, the guys in his veteran’s group, the respite workers, his doctors, and our friends that I am running around on him. It shocked, and then infuriated me when he threatened to have me killed for engaging in all this imagined extramarital fun and games.  Hell, the whole damn thing makes me actually think about going ahead and having me some of that hot sex he’s envisioning I’m having.

As my Mom says, “May as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.”

I’m kidding.

Really. A joke. Just a joke.

Jack’s world also includes plans for him to get on a plane, fly to Vietnam, find people to care for him and set himself up with twenty-four hour care by several young women. Since transferring from his wheelchair to the car, or toilet, or bed, or recliner is a slow and quite terrifying procedure, his speech is difficult for even English speakers to understand, he is now legally blind, has lost his sense of direction, and never did have any common sense – for all these reasons plus the fact that he now has the best medical care to be had free of charge, this is not a viable plan. I understand why he wants it to be possible. Hell, if it were possible, I’d take him to Asia myself.

The VA is currently trying to find a skilled nursing facility which will accept him. I simply cannot care for him in the home any longer.  His application has been rejected by, so far, three facilities. He needs more care than they can provide, is a fall risk, and the VA pays just about half what a private- pay patient is charged for the same room and services. I suspect that last part is a damn high priority for most of these places, but what do I know? And, in case you’re wondering, yes there are long-term care facilities attached to some VA hospitals. The waiting list on the one in San Francisco is typical of these places. It is dozens of names long and hasn’t moved since the last flu epidemic.

So. He will end up far from home, cared for by strangers. No wonder he thinks he’s going back to Vietnam to be ministered to by the descendants of the villagers whose huts he zippoed.

Jack is now on anti-delusion medication and an antidepressant that is especially effective on PTSD. Both of these are helping. They’re helping me – they keep him less agitated and volatile. Nothing will stop or even lessen the delusions. And they are going to get worse. Stronger.  Odder. More dangerous.

Already I have had to take away his unsupervised access to the internet. He did, after all, threaten to have me killed. Not to kill me himself. Given his physical condition that would not have been a credible threat. But he actually thought about it long enough to figure that out and to think, “Hey. I know. I’ll hire someone to do the job.”

I was having nightmares about him finding some disreputable individual who, for the right amount of money, would actually tell him they’d take him to Vietnam and get him all set up. Hell, with access to his bank account, they might throw in a murder just for shits and grins.

So, no more computer and no more access to anything but pocket change.

And for me, this whole experience is beginning to feel less like a decision to place a beloved husband in a nursing home and more like a freaking divorce. People who have never been through this advise me to remember the good times Jack and I have had, don’t take his words and actions personally, remind myself it’s just the disease talking. That’s nonsense. The last thing I can do right now is to cherish my deep and abiding love for my husband.

The couple who traveled all over Asia with nothing but a change of clothes on our backs, lived in Mexico and Panama, moved at the drop a hat and always, always loved each other? That couple is gone. Dead. Someday, once Jack is in skilled nursing and I have time to recuperate, I hope to remember that couple fondly. For now, there is only Jack’s day-to-day care and my commitment to fulfilling my duty as his wife, to finding him the best care possible.

I know that sounds harsh. It is harsh.

It’s also the only way I’m going to get through the next few months.

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