Monday, December 18, 2017
Live, Live, Live…
When you are growing up you think of your life as being “normal.” But when you get older, you realize that the standards and attitudes of those around you have shaped how you see the world and how you live your life. My mother was a firm believer of living each day as though it were your last. Of course, she meant that I shouldn’t wear dirty socks because I might not have a chance to change them if today were my last day. The words I still have in my head go something like… “Don’t waste time, these are minutes you will never be able to live over again.” I don’t think I really appreciated that sentiment until recently.
There are people in this world, people who read my blog, who wouldn’t do well in my mother’s world. They believe that they are living each day if they can simply get through the day without conflict. I see that as putting one foot in front of the other without looking at the path. I guess that’s what I’ve been doing over the past few years. I’ve just been getting through.
Basically, I’m not a “getting though” kinda person. It’s not enough for me to drive by the ocean, I have to have my feet in the water and sand in my toes. I don’t want to just see the color of the fall leaves in Vermont. I want to create syrup from the sap. It’s the world from my perspective.
In March I’m packing up my house, putting it all in storage, and taking my dog and my show on the road. I’ll be stopping at every wide spot in the raod and visiting the largest ball of twine. In reality it will be termed as a “book tour” so I can write it off on my taxes. I’ll be promoting my books, and possibly holding “mini-seminars”, in any city, town, and/or cross-road where I may be summoned by YOU, my readers.
So far, I’m going to Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington. If your state isn’t listed, send me an e-mail and tell me where you are… I’ll come to you.
I will have with me copies of my new book (yet un-named) which will be the story of Riley’s life and journey through alcoholism. ALSO, my new romance novel may be out by that time as well. The only place you will be able to get those books is through ME, while I’m on tour. They will not be available on Amazon until my trip is completed.
While this is a book tour, technically, my purpose of travelling is to start really living again. I’ve been chained to Riley for so long that my new freedom calls me to be mobile. Now’s my chance to see all those things I’ve never seen in this amazing country. Oh… I’ve driven across country many times, but always to get from point A to point B. This time I’ll have more points than there are letters in the alphabet. I want to dance in the rain in an open meadow. I want to see what Niagara Falls looks like from the back of the fall. I want to take pictures from the top of Hatteras Lighthouse. I want to ride in a horse-drawn carriage in Savannah. I want to eat lobster fresh from the docks in Maine. I want to spend the night in a teepee. In short – I want to live, live, live.
There is a scene in the movie “Auntie Mame” where Lucille Ball (as Mame) “Life is a banquet and most sons-a-bitches are starving to death.” Although I prefer Rosalind Russell in the starring role, I like Lucille’s version of that particular line much better.
I don’t want to starve anymore. I want to get out there and live my life. Funny thing though, I didn’t know I was starving until my friend, Sam mentioned that he might want to buy a motor home and travel around the country. Sam lives a quiet life and I think his idea of travelling would be following some pre-destined route on a set schedule without any deviation. I like to have a general idea of my direction and then make up the schedule as I go. I want plenty of time to eat the largest pancake on this side of the Mississippi or to take a tour through Bellingraph Gardens.
I would love to take Sam on MY trip with me and show him what it’s like to be an adventurer. I don’t need a motor home or a fancy RV. I just need a list of places to go and see, my dog and my car. I’m simple like that.
My intention is to feast on the banquet of life as long there’s life to feast upon.
at 12:42 AM
Thursday, December 14, 2017
There comes a time in most alcoholic’s journey when they get sick and it appears that the end is near. Questions come up about liver function, brain atrophy, and other such ailments. Usually the alcoholic is hospitalized and sometimes, comatose. Eventually, the question will come up that goes something like this, “Would you like to have hospice step in with his care?” What they are asking is do you want to prolong this life no matter what that life may be? Or, do you want to remove yourself from the life cycle and let nature take its course?
It’s hard to say “Just let him/her die” no matter what the situation or who the alcoholic is in relationship to you. No one wants to feel that they’ve turned a blind eye and essentially killed a person as a result. Our basic instinct is to survive at all costs. Prolonging life is an inherent part of our being. To go against that can sometimes be impossible.
I believe there are several questions that must be answered before making such a life-altering decision.
First, what does the patient want? Do you know? Can he tell you and if he can, is he in a clear frame of mind when answering? Has this person ever stated what his wishes would be if the situation was to present itself?
Riley often said that he should have been left to die long ago. In fact, he was angry with me because he was still alive. While I did nothing to prevent him from leaving earth, I would not simply ignore his screams for help. Because he survived so many near-death experiences (I believe the count was up to nine.) he believed I was responsible for taking care of him – managing his life. I, on the other hand, didn’t buy into his theory that I had kept him from dying.
Riley didn’t really want to die. He wanted to live, but only if he could stay drunk all the days of his life. He never believed that drinking would end his life. In his eyes, there was no danger inside that bottle of vodka. He vowed he would be shot by a jealous husband as he jumped over a fence at the age of 103. Well… I suppose we all have our fantasies.
Second, has the medical community done everything they can to restore the patient to good health. Along with that is the question of is the life restorable to a point of quality living? If a life can be saved and the patient is able to care for himself in a fairly independent manner, maybe now would not be the time to call in hospice. But, if even a drastic surgically procedure will not change the current condition, then is when to talk to your doctor about hospice services.
The liver can regenerate itself if there are enough healthy cells from which to draw the regeneration. By the time the question of hospice comes up, there are most likely not enough healthy cells to regenerate. Once the liver stops functioning properly, a series of other organ shut-downs occur and there is no “do-over” button to be pushed.
Liver and other organ transplants are not viewed favorably when the recipient is an alcoholic. I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just saying that those instances are rare. The criterion that must be met is very difficult for an alcoholic to achieve. Most don’t have enough time on the life cycle to reach the goal. In reality, transplantation is not a very viable option. Riley told me that he wanted to get well enough to go on the transplant list, get a new liver, and then…. Start drinking again!
Third, is there anything more that you, as a caregiver, can do for the patient to prolong a quality life? Of course the answer is always, YES. It’s true, you can bring the alcoholic home, spoon feed his meals, change his soiled diaper, turn him in the bed so not to get bed sores, read to him, and do all those other things that will destroy any possibility of having a life of your own. How long do you think it will take before you burn out and start looking for help? I’d say the normal person can hang in there for about two to six months. When you start looking for help, where will you look? Believe me, when I say help is very expensive. It is worth it, but you may have to live without lights for a while. Or you could give up your car – after all, you won’t be using it because you’ll be chained his hospital bed.
Please remember I’m not a professional medical, therapist, doctor, lawyer or Indian chief, I’m just a woman who has been there. When it gets that close to the end, hospice will save your life and make the passing of the patient far easier. Their goal is to make the patient as comfortable as possible as his life reaches its conclusion. They are also there for the caregiver providing support in every possible way.
If I should ever get to the place where my quality of life will be dependent on someone else giving up their quality of life, I want to have things end as quickly and peacefully as possible. There’s no point in my hanging around waiting for a miracle cure. Rip off the bandage and just let nature take its course
at 12:37 PM
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
I turned 69 years old yesterday. I got up, showered, and dressed as though I was going to a party. The party was at my house and I had only a few internet and telephone guests. Physically, I was the only one in attendance and it was an awesome day. The best birthday I’ve had in many, many years.
At the end of the day, I sat back and thought “How did I get so lucky?” I have three beautiful great-grandchildren, a grandson and his wife, a daughter, brothers, nieces and nephews, sisters-in-law and a variety of other family and friends.
I also have a man in my life that makes me smile. I never realized that I could be in love at this stage of my life. I always said “When my husband is gone, I never want to be involved with another man.” My life with Riley was so painfully heart-breaking that I couldn’t fathom the idea of putting myself into a position of vulnerability again. But… here I am… I must be crazy out of my mind.
Riley’s first love priority was his booze du jour. So each time he told me he loved me, I doubted his sincerity. He said it all the time. Every night before I “tucked” him into bed, he told me he loved me. It got so that I hated hearing the words “I love you.” Hmpf… meaningless waste of the air with which the words came from his mouth. I felt cruel for my disbelief and inability to return the phrase.
I once asked Riley what he meant when he told me he loved me. His explanation was that it meant he loved the way he could depend on me. He loved that I would always be there for him. I would take care of him. However, he didn’t trust me and he made that clear. Love has nothing to do with trust, says Riley. Not once did he say anything about HIS feelings. He never said that he says “I love you” because he cared more about me than any other woman. He never claimed that I was the most important woman in his life. He told me, that he loved me and wasn’t “in love” with me. He claims that he loves many women but he loves them all differently. In fact, he made it a point to tell me that in many ways I was inadequate as a woman and lover. He preferred his mistresses and his vodka. He would not have chosen me to be his end-of-life companion but I was the last one standing.
The words of love for Riley from me were non-existent. The phrase stopped having meaning for me and I only want to tell someone I love them when I could truly mean what I say. There are many different levels of love and I once had given Riley every bit of my heart, but after a while I couldn’t give any to him at all.
I love my grandchildren, family, and friends. I love chocolate mousse. I love my pets. That kind of love means I’ll protect you and care for you. But it’s totally different for the love I feel for the man in my life. I will call him Sam, but that’s not his real name.
When I tell Sam I love him, it means that I want him to be happy above all else. It means that I will give myself only to him. The biggest thing is that it means I trust him and he can trust me. I will be his best friend, confidant, care giver and will put him above any other man who may venture into my life. I want the best for him even if it means that we don’t end up together. I’m happy when he laughs. He can tell a white lie and I’ll swear it’s the truth. My love for him is unconditional. I don’t want to change him even though he is not perfect.
I believe an important part of loving a person is being comfortable with being a part of that person’s life. A person is not just a single entity, but rather a compilation of all people he cares about. It’s the things that interest him like his hobbies and work. For me, loving a person is not just about “oh, baby, baby, you’re so beautiful, blah, blah”. I don’t love Sam for his looks, although he is handsome. I don’t love him because he is financially secure, although it helps to know he won’t be dependent on me for his next meal. I love him for who he really is as a person. I love him because I feel incredibly good, happy, beautiful because of the way he treats me even when we are fighting. People in love DO fight and it’s not the end of the world. I learned that from Sam.
In my opinion, being in love with an alcoholic is not a healthy kind of love. It is very conditional. I always loved Riley more when he was sober and not so much when he was drunk. Eventually there was no love but was replaced with obligation. I spent years believing I was OK – happy – content with the way things were. But I realize now that I was in denial. We were married for fifty years and I think I was only “in love” for a total of 10 years. However, I made a commitment to Riley and to my children to take care of him and I did just that. I was morally and legally bound to Riley for what was the rest of his life.
Being loved by an alcoholic does not incite a satisfying feeling of mutual respect and concern. In fact, loving an alcoholic is always work without reward. It is a one-way street where the love is always from the non-alcoholic partner to the alcoholic. There is no true affection returned. While being in a healthy, loving relationship is a give and take of affection from each partner. It isn’t a forced exchange. It generates happiness. It just happens and is accepted by each other.
We are all a work in progress. My relationship with Sam is just that. I don’t know where it will go. We may not sit in rockers next to each other as the rest of the world moves around us. Our love may not be a “happily ever after” or “everlasting”. But, it is here and now. It may not be conventional. Sam and I are a bit of a different breed. We are both opposite and alike. We are seldom in the same room at the same time. We’ve known each other for 20 years but are just now learning who we are. But, I will always have that unforced “deep abiding affection” for him no matter what happens for us in the future.
Does Sam love me? For him it’s all about actions and not words. He has said it and I treasure the moment of that confession. But… he doesn’t easily trust and I understand that. This post isn’t about how much he loves or doesn’t love me. It’s about how different it is to love a man who doesn’t put alcohol as a priority over people.
I didn’t know that I could be this happy. I didn’t know that love could feel so good. At the age of 69, I have discovered what it truly means when I say “I love you.”
at 11:10 PM
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
I was looking at Riley’s death certificate and saw that the cause of death was cirrhosis. I stared at those words and thought about the pride with which Riley always said his liver regenerated and was not the cause of any of his ailments. In fact, even at the end, he would not admit that alcohol had anything to do with his inability to be an independent person. In his mind he believed he was getting better and would soon be able to move into an apartment in town and away from my nagging and spying. I always wished him luck with meeting his goal.
The liver is a miraculous organ. It is also deceptive. As long as the liver has any healthy cells it can regenerate new cells. But if the percentage of bad cells out-numbers the percentage of good cells… the liver will continue to die through hardening of all the cells. One day the patient can display all the typical symptoms of liver failure complete with extreme jaundice as to make the person appear iridescent and the next day, have almost no symptoms at all.
Over the past year, Riley had no visible symptoms of cirrhosis. It seems he was having more problems with his kidneys shutting down rather than his liver failing. The constant urinary tract infections were what caused the most concern for me. That was probably because they became very difficult to treat.
I’ve learned a lot about UTI’s over the past couple of years. This infection can send a sane man into a world that only he can understand. Riley hallucinated the minute an infection hit his system. He imagined he was back on board one of his submarines and often refused to let me into the room. “Women aren’t allowed in here! Get out! Get out!” he would yell. He regained so much strength that he was able to sweep me away from the bed and throw me against the wall. He insisted I was the enemy and must be shot. His hallucinations were almost always about his navy service.
It was difficult for me, Riley’s wife and caregiver of so many years, to listen to him and console him as he was telling whoever I was in his mind that I was not to be trusted. He told one imaginary ex-girlfriend that he had never loved me nor wanted me in his life. He said he didn’t like his kids and that the only family he had was his brother and the son who hadn’t wanted contact with him in more than 20 years. When an aide came in to help care for him, he insisted that she cook his meal because I was poisoning him. Eventually, I had to leave most of his care to aides.
I thought all of that insanity was due to UTI’s. Now I know that the UTI simply exacerbated the results of his failing liver. Both conditions can cause the brain to go wokky, but to have both problems is… well… impossible to deal with. To make matters worse, a UTI can linger or even become dormant within the patient revealing only minor symptoms over a long period of time. Then when it becomes active, it raises hell to make up for the time it was quiet.
I recently discovered that a friend may be likely to develop Alzheimer’s and he believes he is having early symptoms. There is a heredity issue. However, after doing some research, I discovered that something as simple as a UTI can mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Knowing that a UTI can create memory loss even if it is a minor infection is in some ways a blessing. A UTI can be cured if the patient is generally healthy. I am confident that his memory issues will fade and he will regain a healthy lifestyle and attitude.
There is no specific test to determine if one has Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia. That test can only be done during an autopsy. To determine the source of memory loss requires a process of eliminating any other cause. It can take a long time to come up with a definitive yes or no that a person has dementia. The waiting and testing is frustrating.
Alcoholic dementia can also cause memory loss. Of course, alcoholics are most likely NOT going to give up alcohol because they forget a few things every once in a while. Forgetting to pay the electric bill or turn the stove burners off are usually of no concern to the alcoholic. It is left to the people around him to monitor his life. That’s not so good for those around him because they should be worrying about their own lives and not so much the alcoholics.
From early on in our relationship, Riley had selective memory disease. Every wife knows that disease. If he didn’t want to take the trash out he would “forget.” If he didn’t want to confess to something, he would “forget” why he did something or when or how. It was infuriating. I mean come on… how can you forget how a pair of another woman’s panties got into the glove compartment of the car?
I always forget to take my grocery list with me to the grocery store. I can misplace my car keys after having them in my hand. I forget to call friends back after telling them I would. Sometimes my brain searches for a word that I’ve used a million times. I don’t think I have Alzheimer’s and I know I don’t have a UTI. In my situation, I believe I’m still recovering from the stress of caring for someone who couldn’t even remember my name. I don’t want to admit the fact that I’m of an age where it is perfectly acceptable to forget a few things.
Too bad I can’t forget where I hid the candy bars from my grandchildren… I have no problem remembering that hiding place.
at 10:12 PM
Friday, November 17, 2017
It’s that time again. It happens every year. “It” meaning the holiday season. Of course Christmas merchandise was put out before Halloween so the “season” actually started a while ago. This is both a horrible and a wonderful time of year. It all depends on where you are in your life and the circumstances of your environment.
I’ve had holiday seasons from both ends of the spectrum – awful and delightful – sad and happy – grateful and not so much. But, I’ve always managed to make something about each one unique and special. I’m an optimist. When I’m having a bad holiday, I try to tell myself that next year will be better. Sometimes it actually is better and sometimes I have to repeat my mantra of “next year it will be better.”
This year brings a different kind of Thanksgiving for me. Since my family will not be celebrating a feast of turkey until Saturday, I’m left to accept invitations from other friends. There are three – count ‘em – THREE dinners that I’ll be attending this year. I’m very blessed to have been asked to spend this meal with such good friends and my family. This coming Sunday I’ll be at a church dinner; on Friday, the 24th, I’ll be at a friend’s house; and on Saturday the 25th, I’ll be with my grandchildren. On the real Thanksgiving Day, I’ll be cooking and preparing; calling my California family; and watching “Christmas in Connecticut”, a 1945 movie starring Barbara Stanwyck, my personal Christmas favorite. I don’t know of any Thanksgiving movies.
I have much to be grateful this year. I made a list:
- I’m in the middle of writing the sequel to “The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife” and have received contributions from Riley’s shipmates about life on board submarines. Thank you, guys!
- I will not be listening to Riley’s cries for help from his pain. I’m grateful he is no longer suffering.
- . My family is healthy and happy. My great-grandchildren grow taller with each glance in their direction. Their brains are like sponges that soak up every piece of knowledge presented to them.
- I’m at peace with knowing I did everything I possibly could to make Riley’s last days more tolerable.
- My travel plans are starting to develop even though it still is a bit early. I should be leaving Virginia sometime after March to start my trip across country while making stops to visit with my followers. Be sure to e-mail me a stop request to email@example.com so I can add you to the itinerary.
- I’m learning that it’s OK to leave the house and do things to take care of myself. I’m grateful to be able to learn that lesson and act on it.
- There is happiness in my life where there used to be despair. I’m grateful for the happiness and to not feeling guilty about being in this state of mind.
With all this gratitude starring me in the face, I now realize that alcoholism stole from me and my family years of happiness. I have always been grateful even in the worst of times. There’s always something that I can appreciate. But, I didn’t realize there was so much missing.
If you are in the situation of finding it hard to be grateful this Thanksgiving Day, think about the things you DO have and not the things that you DON’T have. Did you wake up this morning? That, in and of itself, is worthy of gratitude. If you are having trouble finding something to be grateful for, e-mail me and I’ll help you find something to help you get through the day. I’ll be there for you.
Thanksgiving and the entire holiday season can be a tumultuous time of the year. Without a doubt, it can be the worst days of your life. But… there is always that light that is not an oncoming train. Like I said before – I’m optimist.
at 10:13 AM
Monday, October 23, 2017
When a husband dies, people express their condolences in an attempt to comfort the grieving widow. In turn, the widow gets through one day at a time and mourns for the part of her that no longer exists. In some cases, it takes years for the widow to come to terms with her loss and get back to the business of living a full and productive life.
Alcoholics remain on this earth, but die in the mind and heart of the spouse far before they take their last breath. When the death occurs, the grieving process has already started and/or often times it has been completed. It may seem that the spouse is cold-hearted or unfeeling that her/his partner is now gone, but the truth is that the process can sometimes be reaching its end before the actual death occurs.
That seems to be the case in my adjustment from being a wife to a widow. Years ago I accepted the fact that my husband had left me in favor of his mistress – Ms Aristocrat Vodka – or Ms Vodie as I call her. His alliance to her left me without a real husband and left my kids without a real father.
While Ms Vodie held Riley’s heart, he was never monogamous and seemed to take pride in the fact that he could bed down almost any woman in sight. My husband left me and the family way back in the late 1980s although his date of death was September 27, 2017.
Riley and I separated, but did not divorce, early in 1989. I grieved for the marriage that could have been. I cried from the loneliness of Sunday mornings without sharing the newspaper. I longed desperately for the intimate moments we had once shared. I treated every man with hostility because I somehow imagined them to be in some kind of elite womanizing cult. Every man who showed an interest in me was met with the presumption of them being liars, cheaters and jingaloes. I went through every stage of the grieving process. It was hell.
I came out of it just in time to be able to forgive Riley so that I could take him back into my home, which I had created without the assistance of a man, and take care of him as he withered away with Ms Vodie by his side. The last seven years have been another form of hell.
Riley is gone. I’m truly a widow. And I’m not grieving over the loss. Some of you may think of me as a cold-hearted, ruthless, witch and you may be right. Every night I listened to him tell me, “Linny, I love you” and sometimes “Linny, I care very much about you.” I never responded because those words meant nothing to me. I couldn’t bring myself to hold his hand, but could only manage to rub his shoulders. When he begged me to climb into the bed and hold him, I refused. This man in that bed was not my husband. My husband died years prior to Riley’s requests of affection.
Even though I felt I was attending to a man who was not my husband, I was not free. My entire life was centered on his nurses, aides, physical therapist, doctors, and other visitors schedules. When my daughter was able to come to sit with him, I was able to go to town for groceries and possibly run a few errands. Riley was a prisoner in his bed and I was a prisoner in the house.
September 27th, 2017, was the day I was released from my responsibilities dictated by our society, legal system, and my moral consciousness. I stood in the middle of the living room and I felt stunned. I was looked around as though I was trying to figure out what it was I was to do next. I honestly did not know what to do. So I did nothing except wander through the house. I couldn’t go into his room. It was too empty. Maybe I was missing him a little. Maybe the absence of him treating me like a servant left a hole in my day. I had become so accustomed to his demanding calls that when there was silence, it frightened me.
Riley disliked having me play music as I cleaned house or cooked his dinner. But Riley is not here, so I turned up the music and danced around the room. I sang at the top of my lungs even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I didn’t care. I wanted noise and I made a lot of it. It was glorious!
I made plans, just because I could. I went for drives in the country, because I could. I ate out at the restaurants that I had only heard about but never experienced because… because I COULD! And I DID!
My life has re-started and I’m enjoying it very much. I’m regaining my health, having my nails done, getting plenty of rest and I’m laughing. Do you know why? Because I can, that’s why.
If you are concerned about your what your drinking is doing to your loved ones, read this post again. This is what it means when your alcoholic husband dies and you are finally free again.
at 3:27 PM
Sunday, October 1, 2017
When I sit down to write a post I usually say to myself, “I don’t have any words.” I stare at the blank simulation of a piece of paper, but still, there are no words that pop into my brain. I simply start typing. Random words flow from my frontal lobe down to my fingertips and end up on the screen. Eventually, they start to make sense and I can rearrange them into some form of message. The post still might ramble a bit… but eventually I get on the right track.
Since Riley’s death, the ramblings seem to have taken over more than my brain. My attention span is limited and I cannot sit still to watch an hour long TV show. Even my favorite, Survivor, can’t hold my interest for the entire show. I start to clean the house, but I go from room to room picking up this and that but never making a dent in the real task at hand.
I have an incredible urge to be mobile. Well, not just mobile. I want to drive to somewhere, anywhere, the destination is not important. I want to be behind the wheel of my car and start in a direction and keep going. I got up yesterday morning, around 4 AM, and took a drive out in the country. I got lost but found my bearings quickly. I drove around for more than an hour. I watched the sunrise which is always incredibly beautiful, and then returned home.
Riley’s nurse called to find out how I was doing. I told him about my driving urge. According to him, it comes from the fact that I’ve been nearly sequestered for several years and now I have the freedom to go outside my house. It is as though I’ve been locked in a cage and now the gate to the cage is open. I’m just outside the gate, waiting to make sure it’s OK to venture farther out.
The house is very quiet. I’ve been in Riley’s room and thought I’d start cleaning it up and getting rid of all the equipment. But, when I go in, I’m a bit frozen. I look around and worry that if I make changes, he will be back and I’ll have to get everything back to being Riley-friendly. The clean-up and changes can wait.
I’m floundering which is a term I often use when a person doesn’t seem to have any direction. While I have a million things on my mind concerning what I need/want to do, I have trouble completing one task. It’s not that I don’t know what to do. It’s that I don’t know what to do first.
I thought about closing down this blog and trying to go on to something new. But, I’ve had overwhelming requests to continue writing here. Readers are asking about what my life will be like now compared to what it was like before Riley became mortal. So this blog will continue.
The sequel to The Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife should be completed soon and will be available on Amazon just as my other books. Also, in the next couple of months, there will be a book available that takes me completely out of my comfort zone. It’s a sexy romance novel which is purely fictional. I’ll be posting updates on both the sequel and romance novel as information becomes available.
Riley’s aide once asked him, “How ya doin’?” His reply was “Fine as frog’s fur. Ever see fur on a frog? It’s pretty darn fine.” He really wasn’t doing fine because less than a week later he died. When people ask me how I’m doing, I’m tempted to give the blub about frog’s fur. I’m fine, but not really fine. I will be fine, eventually. I will rediscover life in a whole new light. I’m like a blind person who can now see and relishing all the new colors and scenery. I’ll be fine. Give me some time. I’ll be just as fine as frog’s fur.
Being fine means that eventually, I’ll stop waiting and listening for Riley to call me from his hospital bed. I’ll be able to wash the final load of sheets and blankets. I won’t wake up in the middle of the night just to see if he is still breathing. I won’t hesitate to take a shower because I don’t know if I can get out fast enough if he should need me. Being fine will require some patience which is not my strength.
I’m not without a plan. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I always have a plan and sometimes a back-up plan. Those plans usually turn out to be just general outlines for what I actually end up doing. So here’s my general outline for what’s coming up.
In the spring, I will be travelling across country. It will be a long slow trip with lots of stops at silly little tourist attractions – like the giant ball of stamps or twine. If anyone wants me to make a stop in their neighborhood as a meet and greet/lunch/whatever, I’m happy to arrange for that. If there are more than four people in a place, I can do a mini-seminar. I’ll have with me signed copies of all my books. Send an e-mail with “travel” in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org so I can work my route to include your area.
My only other plan is to rest, clean house, re-create my office, and take care of my physical health. I’ll keep writing as long as you keep reading.
at 10:09 AM
Thursday, September 28, 2017
After weeks of fluctuating between screams for help and lapses into unresponsiveness, Riley went to sleep peacefully and never regained consciousness. The Immortal Alcoholic’s reign of immortality has come to a close.
Rest in Peace
The Immortal Alcoholic
8/19/1939 – 9/27/2017
Born in Clinton, Iowa
Died in Newport News, Virginia
I won't forget the good times even though I can't forget the bad times.
I mourned the death of the man I married many years ago. Today just makes it official. -- Linda
at 5:38 PM
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
It’s been a full day out here in the country. Nurses come and go. The aide comes and goes. My daughter comes and goes. The pastor comes by and also the social worker. They go into Riley’s room and check on how he is doing. When each returns to the living room, I ask if he responded. They all have a negative response. Sometimes he opens his eyes just to a squint or a slit whichever you want to call it.
I can’t sleep in my bed because I want to know who is here and who has left. So I lay on the sofa and drift in and out. Several times during the day I’m told to rest. “Just rest. We got this.” They’ve got this. But I don’t “got” this. I flounder around the house and roam from room to room. I open and close the fridge. I’m not hungry. I wipe off the counter tops with bleach and then wipe them dry. One bread crumb and I grab my spray bottle.
Papers are strewn over the coffee table, end table and desktop. They are what needs to be sorted and organized for the Veterans Administration. I straighten them as I pass by, but then spread them out again. I have bits and pieces of my new novel in scraps of paper waiting to be entered into the manuscript. Post-a-notes keep me organized as to all the players in my imaginary world that’s coming to life inside my computer and is just about ready to give birth. Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife sequel is another stack of papers on the printer table. I don’t need any post-it to keep track of those characters.
I’ve been encouraged to video record Riley’s end of days. But, really, there is nothing to record. Unless of course I should have recorded his attempts to shove me out of the way and yell that I’m poisoning him. Maybe I should have recorded his attempts to block anyone from giving him the medication that keeps him calm. That was last night. Tonight is different.
Over the past two years, Riley has been bed bound. Each night when I would “tuck” him into bed and give him nighttime meds, he would say to me “I love you Linny.” Sometimes he would change it up and say “I care about you.” I would become irritated every time he said it because I knew he loved me because I was the only woman left standing out of many. He cared about me because I was the only one who kept the poop from clinging to his butt. I knew it. There was no profound revelation that I was the only woman who had ever loved him enough to take him back in when there was no love left. It was just that he had worn all the others out, driven them away, they were not inclined to put up with his tom-cat attitude.
Tonight there was no “I love you, Linny.” Tonight he lay in his bed and emits an awful death rattle. He breaths in very slowly and then stops as if he is holding his breath. But there is a gurgle in his throat. It sounds like he needs to cough it up. He isn’t conscious enough or strong enough to make the cough happen. I don’t miss the nighttime declaration. I won’t pretend to believe that he is sincere. I’ve fallen victim to that way too many times. Even on his death bed, I just don’t believe it.
When he is a bit more alert, he is hallucinating. I’m not Linda then. I’m his mother or his first wife. He proclaims his love for them. She cries out for Mother to please say the prayer with him. We have discovered that as part of his childhood bedtime routine was to say the Lord’s Prayer before going to bed. We oblige him and recite the prayer for him. It seems to calm him so that we can next his next dose of morphine into his mouth.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those
Who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
And the power, and the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen.
at 1:26 AM
Sunday, September 17, 2017
I’m sitting here tonight at my computer wearing my little rosebud jammies (a Christmas gift from my grandkids last year), a scotch on the rocks (yes, you read right – a scotch), and a box of tissue. In the background my dog, Jade, emits as soft snore while sleeping on the coach which is forbidden to her. The other end of the forbidden coach is my cat, Benny, who is purring as he cleans up from the day. It’s peaceful here in my living room which is also my make-shift office.
A sip of the scotch reminds me of my early days with Riley when he always wanted a Johnnie Walker Gold on the rocks when he arrived home from work. On our meager budget, it was a splurge, but one that Riley insisted upon every night. He would only have one. That was before. That was before the drink became more important than his life or his family or his work or anything else.
Tonight I sip this scotch in honor of the life he left behind to pursue a career in drunkenness – in which he excelled. I can hear his shallow breathing as he lay in his bed not really sleeping but not really comatose either. There is no heavy snoring like there was during the days when we shared a bed. He is peaceful.
Maybe it’s the cocktail of Haldol and Morphine that has him in such a gentle state. A few hours earlier he was throwing his fists and threatening bodily harm to anyone who even showed an attempt to touch him. There was nothing quiet about him screaming obscenities at our pastor as we recited, at Riley’s request, the Lord’s Prayer.
Although his heart is beating and his lungs are working, there doesn’t seem to be anything behind his eyes. No brown eyes with twinklings of mischief or a tell-tale expression of some plot to be executed. His face is pale and yellowish, but not as a jaundiced person. It’s more like he hasn’t bathed or showered and the sweat has left a patina on his skin.
Everyone once in a while his muscles twitch in spasms. It looks like it would hurt, but he’s on so much morphine he probably couldn’t feel a jack hammer to his ribs if one were there. His arms and legs are cold to the touch. The hospice nurse tells me that it’s normal at this stage of his degeneration.
Everyone has left to go to their respective homes and beds. They’ll be back in the morning to help me get through another day. I’m alone waiting for Riley to die. When they are here there is nothing for me to do. I’m told to rest. But, I can’t. So I go to my FaceBook friends who have no idea what’s really going on at this house. I post little comments, stir up a little trouble, ask stupid questions, I occupy myself. The people closest to me in my life are not available. Carrot has lost her phone. Another friend is busy working and caring for her kids. A long-time friend isn’t speaking to me because of a very heated argument that took place a couple of days ago. None of them know and I won’t tell them or can’t tell them that I’m alone and listening to my husband die. I won’t tell them I need them because – I am a strong, confident, independent woman who doesn’t like wallowing. I have an image to uphold. I am my own worst enemy.
So let’s just talk a minute about Riley being my husband. If you are familiar with this blog you will know and understand that we have been estranged for a very long time. I am his wife, but not his lover. Yet, the memories of the good parts of our life together – and there really are some – come flashing back in full force. It could be because I’m in the middle of writing the sequel to the Immortal Alcoholic’s Wife. My writing self must channel Riley in order for me to write the book. I must also channel the Linda who was once a loving, faithful wife. It makes it difficult to sit here, drink a scotch, and listen to that slow, but steady, breathing.
Riley being on the edge of death is not a new experience. The family has sat vigil for him so many times that only a few pay attention when things go downhill. He is seemingly immortal. It’s like a big joke that he plays on anyone who cares about him. Like a boy who cries wolf. This time it’s different. This time we know he has developed sepsis. This time we can see that he is dying before our eyes. It’s unsettling.
There is nothing to be done. I will try to sleep in my bed, in my room, where I cannot hear what’s going on in Riley’s room. I have pills to help me sleep, but they probably shouldn’t be mixed with the scotch. The first thing I will do in the morning is check to see…
at 1:02 AM