The question I am often asked is “why do you still do it? Is it loyalty or guilt that has you going every day without fail when she doesn’t even know you are there?” This is often asked by some friends bold enough to dare approach the subject of my dedication to the woman I love. Why do I go every day to a nursing home to visit my wife of 50 years who sits in a wheelchair without the power of movement or speech? The woman who gave birth to our children, cleaned our home, gave up many things for me until she dedicated herself to serving God? The same woman who for countless hours gave of her time, and her family’s time to serve food to the homeless, to help the needy, to travel to the poorest neighborhood to help spread some hope and perhaps give others the faith to move on and not give up no matter how desperate their situation.
I am up early in the mornings, drive to the same place at the same time to bring her breakfast and while I feed her I speak to her like I did when she was whole. Do I miss her? Yes, with all my heart and my soul I miss her. I would give my life if only she would return to how she was before taking ill. I see her moving around in the kitchen fixing dinner or breakfast and I see her smiling at me while waving good bye as she goes on one of her missions to help the many who so look forward to seeing her. Her gentle touch and kind words I miss as much as her smell and her enthusiasm for life. I miss her advice and her voice and the way she laughed at my silly jokes.
Do I have regrets or feel guilty while I sit feeding her, cleaning her and making sure she is comfortable? At times I do and then I reflect and I am so grateful to be able to be here and take care of her. It feels magnificent taking care of your loved one and I see it as a gift and not an obligation. At times I find it hard to put into words how I feel about being blessed with the strength to do this every day and not feel like it’s a burden. Don’t get me wrong, it is draining and it makes you feel exhausted both physically and mentally doing this every day from morning to mid-afternoon. By the time I get home I am energized with either nervous energy or frustration. It is unexplainable at times and I have to find a diversion or distraction to let go of the intensity of these feelings because at times it becomes overwhelming.
I do count my blessings for being given the opportunity to do this, to be a good guy and do something without expectations for the one person who did so much for me and our family. I have the utmost admiration and devotion for this woman who I visit every day without fail and will continue to do so until I can’t do it anymore or until that time which it will no longer be necessary. If and when that day comes I will be devastated and although death is part of living, it scares me to even think of it coming to an end. The fear of losing her sends me into a state of panic and despair so strong that I wonder if I will be able to handle such a loss. Will I be able to handle the loneliness and find other things to occupy my time? I feel a sense of helplessness wondering if I am doing enough for her or if I should be doing more for her. My daily routine has become a part of my life to the point where I find it hard to believe I have been doing it for over five years. Has it been that long? It doesn’t seem like it when the love and devotion you have is pure and comes freely from the heart and all you do, is done without question because you vowed to take care of her through sickness and in health and forsaking all others. Yes, I have forsaken all others for the woman who earned my devotion, my love, my heart and my soul.
If anyone would have told me that I would be spending my retirement years in a nursing home feeding my beloved Claire, combing her hair, making sure she was given her medication and not leaving her side until I made sure the daily routines were done before I called it quits, I would have laughed at them and called them crazy. Yeah, we had dreams of traveling and spending time with our kids and grandchildren, we had plans which we didn’t get to enjoy. Was this God’s idea of a joke? Will I wake up one day and find it was all a dream and my loving wife was whole again laughing at my silly jokes and running around taking care of our home? No, it’s not a dream, it’s not a joke and it’s not going to go away. My life is full of joy because she is still with me regardless of her current state of health. How many spouses or family members will embrace this situation and not feel remorse or that they have been dealt a bad hand in their lives? I can’t answer that but I can say that to me, it is a privilege to be here for my wife. There is enough love in my heart for both of us and the love is strong and real enough for me to continue my daily routine of showing up and doing the same thing day after day without regrets.
I live for her and my love compels me to be here and live strong for my duty as a husband and friend and companion to the woman who accepted me and who put up with me throughout the years. I live and breathe for her and she is my life until the day she is no longer with me and even then I will continue to live for her. So now I answer the question boldly asked by those few so-called friends. Why do I do I still do it? Why do I spend my days in a nursing home with my beloved Claire? I will tell you why…..because she knows I’m there.