I am getting used to the occasional bizarre remark, such as, ‘Usually, after a session like that, the agency gives us coffee and discusses it with us.’
A complete mystery to me, so I ask, ‘Discuss what?’
‘The situation,’ he says, with an air of some impatience at my obtuseness. A few more questions get us no further on that, so I change tack:
‘What agency do you mean?’
‘You know — the ad agency.’
So then I am able to tell him that I have never been to an ad agency with him, and that he must have been in the past for a minute. (He was briefly in advertising, long before I knew him.) He is able to grasp that and agree, ‘Yes, I must have been.’
I am getting used to him waking up after a nap and thinking it’s a new morning — or waking up on a new morning and thinking it’s dinner-time following a nap. No big deal, though it sometimes takes a few attempts to explain before he gets himself re-oriented.
I’m perfectly prepared, nowadays, for the fact that he will wake after a dream and think it was real and he’s still in it. Or for his conviction, after a phone call with any of his children, that they have been here in person (even though they all live interstate).
Other new behaviours are harder to come to terms with. I need strategies!
He will sometimes round on me in fury if I fail to understand something he has said, which to me is incomprehensible. Trying to use logic only makes matters worse. Obviously he has his own logic, in which it all makes perfect sense. We can also end up screaming at each other when he gets over-solicitous for me and wants to call an ambulance for a mild tummy upset, and I won’t go along with it. It comes from love and I appreciate that — but you wouldn't think so, listening to the rows. (It also shows me that I must think of who to call on if I did need to go to hospital. He can't be left to fend for himself, and neither can the cats.)
As well as learning not to bother reasoning with him but somehow to divert him instead, I also have to learn not to take his anger personally, not to feel wounded but stay calm. I am learning, but it’s taking a while.
I am the one who can lose it when I am in the middle of getting us ready to go out — which is a bit like doing so with a young child, these days — and he asks me the same question six times in a row. It would be all right if I didn’t have other things going on simultaneously, plus a wish to be on time for our appointments. Maybe the old ‘count to ten before speaking’ rule would come in handy here.
The worst, for me, is that he can be so changeable. It’s as if he is two different people. For instance, when the possibility of men’s groups came up in connection with respite, he said an emphatic no. (He had tried a men’s group years ago and didn’t like it. ‘All they do is sit around complaining about their wives,’ he said.) Then, two hours later, he declares, ‘I’d love to try a men’s group! You don’t think I want to be with a lot of women, do you?’ He is not only perfectly serious but quite angry at the very idea of not going to a men’s group. This complete about-face is just one example of the changeableness. It comes so out of the blue that I'm taken aback, and is always an extreme contrast like that — which makes it difficult to plan ahead very far, for one thing.
But it’s not the inconvenience that bothers me the most. It’s losing the person I love, having him slip away and/or turn into someone else. He’s still here a lot of the time, even if it’s often in a childlike version of himself. That’s OK; I can still converse with him, we still laugh at the same things, hold similar political views, and so on. It’s the angry stranger I can’t handle. That stranger is suddenly here, out of nowhere, unpredictably — then gone again, and he’s back to his usual self, not even knowing he was ever any different.
Not that he never got angry in the past; of course he did. But it was him getting angry. Now, sometimes it’s him but often it’s some bloke I don’t know. That feels scary, and lonely. I go away and cry by myself, where he can’t see. The man I know would be very upset at having distressed me, but he is unable to alter the distressing behaviour. I have to find a way to alter my response.