Forty-Seven

I am so glad I went through the exercise of writing this “sequel”. Anniversaries are for reminding us of truths that keep us going, just sayin…

Five years ago, on January 11, 2015, I sat writing as I am now, on the same subject – the anniversary coming up in a couple days. I took a picture of my diamond and thought about all it meant to me, being married for forty-two years.

The ring looks a lot different now. Since it no longer fit me, I had the diamond reset. My preference changed to white gold somewhere in the last thirty years, and I worried about the prongs wearing off and losing the stone. The price of the gold in the old ring wasn’t enough to pay for the new one, so it cost me. I could only afford to replace the engagement ring with the stone in a secure beveled setting, but it was good to be able to wear it again.

The new setting suits me. It is plain, safe. It doesn’t collect garden dirt or catch on my sweaters. It fits, although I don’t know for how long. My hands keep… growing.

Life has changed. We are changing with it. It’s been a little over a year ago that my husband got his diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia. That day wasn’t when the problem started but it did mark the change in his focus. How does one think about anything else when faced with a prognosis like that? His world has gotten smaller in so many ways, limited in large part by his dependence on me. Today, at home, he was relatively quiet while we ate a meal with some friends and listened to a sermon on the internet. He spent most of the day in his recliner in the corner of the living room, looking very tired. He asked me once what I was doing. He went to bed early.

It means a lot to me that he is not ungrateful. He is not a big complainer. He puts up with me dusting him off all the time and fixing his clothing. He eats what I fix for meals and tells me when it is good. He willingly follows my suggestions. He sits still while I trim his beard. He doesn’t get mad when I easily do the things that are hard for him. He doesn’t criticize my decisions about money, or schedules. He is still here, a sweet person, a nice guy, thinking, trying to manage his daily existence as much as he can. But there is very little that he can contribute to us, to our marriage, to our future. His executive functioning is not working well.

Most of the time, I cannot imagine what he thinks about. I even have trouble describing my own feelings about what has happened to us. For our anniversary, should I not be able to put words to what’s meaningful for us?

It is for times like this that we make promises to each other. Our marriage vows had the old-fashioned words “in sickness and in health, till death parts us”. We had no idea who would be sick, no one does, usually. Few have the ability to think about what that means when the excitement of marriage and all it entails is new. But now, forty-seven years later, the promises have become meaningful. It means that we own these new circumstances together.

Now it makes sense to me what covenant marriage is. There were three of us making promises on the day Dennis and I married. God, who heard my promises, now helps me to keep them. God, who knows all about grief, loss, dread, panic, and everything else I experience finds ways to support me. He assures me that promises kept will be worth it, and that growing in personal integrity will be satisfying and rewarding. Our days now are part of something bigger, better and soon coming (relatively speaking). They are not the end!

So, on Tuesday the 14th, I will remind the husband that he is not alone. I am keeping him company as long as I am able, and I’m going to do my best to keep life from being dull (I guess he kind of does that for me too…) There are gifts all around us that we can point out to each other – maybe that’s how we’ll spend our “Happy Anniversary”.

Every Day Should Be this Good

Letters handed to me today from far away Cambodia
Letters handed to me today from far away Cambodia

Even though I did not get a lot of sleep the night before (might have been up late blogging) today was a day I enjoyed and for which I am thankful.  I heard something inspiring and it just happened to be about change. More specifically, about being willing to change things in my own life in order to relate more to other people – to get to know them, to spend time with them, to come to love them.  Sitting next to me at the time was an older man who, it struck me, was a good example of this. He was dressed pretty conservatively, except for his socks which were insanely wild and not shy about being seen.  I surreptitiously took a picture of them with my cell phone when he wasn’t looking but evidently I wasn’t careful enough and got a picture of the inside of my bag instead.  Sorry.  You should have seen these socks.  George H. Bush would have loved them.  This guy was willing to be a bit quirky in order to spark interest, arouse the curiosity of the younger set and enter the world of high fashion. He stepped outside the realm of the average 70-80 year old and I’ll bet some good experiences have come from it. I remain inspired and have some new goals for this week.

Also at this same venue, I was given some letters addressed to me from two very precious women in Cambodia.  One I had never met personally but in her letter she assured me that she knew all about me from others and had been praying for me. Her expression of love and encouragement, in a language not her own, was clear and confident. She is a caretaker in an orphan home in Phnom Penh. She sent a picture of herself.  I can hardly wait to meet her someday.

The other letter was from a teen age girl I have known for several years.  Her family gave her up to live in the orphan home, feeling she would be safer there.  Her father had an alcohol problem and in her culture children in those circumstances are often abused or sold into slavery of one kind or another. She excitedly wrote about how her father had started learning about God, had quit drinking, was helping his wife at home and reading the Bible.  This was a miracle we had been asking God to work out for years.  I could feel her happiness.  Change had brought it.

Lastly, I went to work this afternoon.  My elderly client, Jack, has thrived in his own home over the last couple of months.  He loves to invite people to have dinner with him at his favorite restaurants and tonight it was our turn to be blessed.  I drove him to the Lucky Pelican where we met up with “the husband” for a great meal.  Later, back at his home, I helped him get ready for sleep.  I know it’s part of my job but it’s always a little strange for a grown-up to tuck another grown person into bed. I said “Good night, dear Jack” and he laughed and puckered up for a kiss.  He has changed so much.

Change is at the heart of all these experiences today – our ability to change, and God’s ability to change us.  He made the most miraculous change, giving up his God existence and living like a man, never again to be quite what he was before (becoming more, not less). Change like this is good (for us).  I’m just sayin’ that I’m thankful for everything I’ve become aware of today, thankful there are so many people here on the planet to live with, to love and to pray for. Thankful for change.