March 09, 2010

Death Watch, 2010

Boyfriend and I have been sitting close to Faux Ma during her final days. It’s actually been a fascinating journey except for one thing…Faux Pa.

OK, I know people deal with death differently. Everyone grieves uniquely. And the grieving process can begin before a death, as in this case with Faux Ma. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. She was in remission after a big series of chemotherapy. Then right before Thanksgiving of 2009 it was discovered the cancer had returned.

Faux Ma has been taking care of doing everything for Faux Pa for at least the last decade. He has been showing definite signs of dementia for quite a while. Nothing has ever been done about this dementia; in fact, Faux Ma did her darnedest for years to cover up his mental decline. By the time she had reached the point where she couldn’t take care of do everything for Faux Pa and Boyfriend and I were spending more time around him during the Death Watch, we discovered things were much worse than we suspected.

But life is full of surprises and Faux Pa’s mental incapacity is just one of those surprises. We’re rolling with it, fully aware that the minute Faux Ma floats into the great beyond Faux Pa will be coerced into the car and taken to the nearest neurologist so we can work with an actual diagnosis.

Until that time he’s dealing with the death of his wife. I have to keep reminding myself he is incapacitated. He is impaired. He is totally, completely, utterly getting on my last nerve.

I am fully aware that I’m going straight to hell because of all the thoughts I’ve been having, picking on an 85-year-old man with the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. Don’t lecture me about having compassion or getting bad karma. I can’t help it. And I’m pretty sure the reason he bugs me so much is because I’m deathly afraid he is what Boyfriend will someday become. ARGH!

For one thing, Faux Pa thinks it must be completely silent in the death house. Silent and dark with no moving air. He believes we are to sit around Faux Ma and simply watch silently as she dies. So when Boyfriend or I try to encourage Faux Ma to express herself, what she’s feeling and seeing (and she’s seeing a lot more around the house than any of us, let me tell you), or if we give words of encouragement that it’s okay for her to let go Faux Pa gets all agitated and annoyed. The poor woman is trying to articulate something, and instead of having the patience to let her just get it out, Faux Pa interrupts and says over and over and over again, just relax and rest. Not only does he not want any of us to make noise, he doesn’t want to hear his wife’s last words. Know why? Because they will be her last words. I’m pretty sure he thinks if she isn’t talking or being talked to she will live forever.

So he just sits there at her side, devoted as he is. Faux Ma must have been awfully devoted too because Faux Pa doesn’t cease to reward her loyalty with the ultimate gesture of validation…petting. Yes, he pets his wife. With his fingertips. Constantly. It’s like he wants to comfort her but is afraid to touch her. It’s like he’s been married to her for over fifty years but has never been intimate with her. (Never mind Boyfriend’s existence.)

There is no way I can convey within the confines of a blog post the bizarreness of this couple’s history. Bizarre to me, at least. The lack of communication. The power struggles. The resentment. The dependency. What do I expect? Do I think Faux Pa should pull a Ryan O’Neal in Love Story and just hop into bed with the dying Faux Ma?  That would most likely drive me to poke forks in my eyes.

I can’t articulate my frustration with this man. I guess that makes me just as incapacitated as he is.


MaryAnn said...

You're not incapacitated, you were able to spot-on articulate why you're so frustrated - in the last sentence of the 6th paragraph. I know exactly how you feel as I have been in that place before myself. And just a reminder to self, in your own words - "everyone grieves uniquely." You may not be grieving for what is happening in the present, as much as for what is yet to come. It's okay, you're allowed.

Meredith said...

Oh MaryAnn, you are so wise. It's good to know I'm not the only one feeling like this from time to time. It's also good to know I am indeed somewhat articulate. Thanks for the words of encouragement.