In light of my recent resolution, things changed around the house.
I had been tiptoeing around Candy, I realized. Reluctant to speak to her, reluctant to be around her, trying to stay in denial about her decline. But, I had been running all my life. I couldn’t bear to run from this—not when I might soon be without my beloved wife.
As a result, I tried to spend as much time with Candy as possible.
Janie: “This is delicious ice cream, Candy!”
Candy: “I thought you didn’t eat ice cream?”
Janie: “I do now!”
And it changed the way everyone in the family behaved.
Candy: *singing* “Happy song! This is my very happy song!”
Candy had not, of course, slowed in her decline. Her periods of lucidity were further and farther between. And her behavior had grown ever more erratic, spending long moments staring off into space before launching into hours of singing and running around the house and acting hyper. As much as you were a rambunctious child, B, I think your mommy was even more wild than you were.
Not to say you were well-behaved. You were sweet. But by the Creator did you have a mouth on you.
Janie: “Come down for dinner, B!”
At the same time, however, you were happier than you had been in months. You were smiling, you would spontaneously give your mommy and I hugs, and you were actually doing your homework (occasionally).
You even did the dishes after meals, which is something I had never seen you do before! It seems that my changed behavior, my acceptance of Candy’s difficulties, was changing the way the house ran as a whole!
B: *singing* “…sing a happy little working song!”
Or… maybe it was because you watched a lot of Enchanted during that point in your life… Either way! This was a much better way to live than the constant dread and the picking around the topic. Certainly, I still feared a time would Candy would not recognize me as someone she loved (or, found attractive, as the motif of me being the hot lady down the street had not yet faded). But, for the moment…
Candy: “Hey sexy lady!”
Janie: “Turn around, love! The house is the other way!”
Candy: “Come give me some sugar!”
For the moment, she acted less like she was failing, and more like she was a cheerful, overly flirty, drunk version of herself. And that, I could cope with.
Janie: “Finally alone…”
Not to say I didn’t need a little help, from time to time. Just because I had had the realization that my behavior altered the rest of the family’s outlook didn’t mean that it was easy.
It was exhausting, pretending that everything was alright. Pretending that my wife, though no longer the same woman I fell in love with, was still not… “broken,” in a way. The fact of the matter was, she wasn’t the same woman I fell in love with, she was irrevocably changed. And it was hard not to see that as a bad thing. Especially when she had her bad days.
Candy: “DAMN YOU, YURI! I HATE YOU!”
Janie: “Darling… that’s an ice cream cone. Yuri isn’t here right now.”
Candy: “I’m sorry, sister. Forgive me?”
But, I was resolved not to resort to the same escapism I had relied on for my entire life. Instead, I would cope in other ways.
Janie: “Somebody shine a light…”
It was different, right? To play music at home, instead of running off to play music at the club?
Candy: “You know, I used to be an athlete. Yeah, WNBA.”
Janie: “Just a second, love. I’m busy.”
It was different.
B: “Mommy’s so… different now, Samuel.”
All About Me still continued, just not with the same frequency that it had been. Every other week, for two hours instead of long into the night. The group of us would climb to the top of Break Down to play and dance and sing…
It was an incredible time of relief. But it was the only break I could afford. My family needed me at home. And I was already gone so much, with work and everything…
Candy: “You’re not going out tonight, are you? I need you here.”
Janie: *texting* “Actually, guys, we’ll have to cancel for tonight. Raincheck?”
Janie: “It’s good I’m staying home, right? Candy needs me here.”
Despite the stress, Candy made it worth my while to stay. As her mind continued to decline, her inhibitions continued to rise, til she was nearly always ready to WooHoo.
I hardly ever said no. The adrenaline, I think, or something about the intimacy, brought her an hour or so of lucidity (so long as she didn’t fall asleep immediately after). And it was good for her, to know that she was still loved. And, apparently, good for B, to know her parents still loved each other (she may or may not have gotten an eye-full a couple of times. The detriment of using the guest bedroom, I suppose).
Candy: “Come and get it, sexy lady.”
B: “This is normal…”
All in all, it wasn’t perfect. I was tired. I was stressed. But I was doing what was best for my family, something I’d learned to appreciate the value of, in recent years. This was the right thing to do.
We were keeping the passion alive, that’s what we were doing. And somewhere, deep down, I hoped it was keeping the love of my life alive too.