I sit here tonight doing what I have so often done before. It’s a little after 9 pm and I am at my computer, reading poems, while he sleeps. The only difference is that instead of sleeping in the next room, he is sleeping just down the road a little way.
I am trying to reframe this dreadful ‘separation’ thing that is in my mind. And in his.
He was quite lucid today. So this morning, when I spoke of taking him home some time to see the cats, and he looked at me sceptically, I addressed the subject.
It was only this morning that I learned I was mistaken in thinking he was initially there as a respite patient while the paperwork to make him permanent was going through. No, it had gone through much faster than I realised, and he was admitted as a permanent resident. So I explained this, as gently as I could, emphasising that once we get settled in the new situation, I’ll be taking him on outings including day visits home; and that he can have 52 overnight visits a year, so one possibility is to come home one night every week.
‘I’m a bit scared to bring you home,’ I admitted, ‘In case you won’t leave again.’
‘But that would be good,’ he said.
So I had the conversation again about how it’s no-one’s fault, but the situation has been forced on us by what’s happening to his body and what’s happening to mine. (Last night I was hatching desperate plots to get him home and make it work somehow, when I was struck by severe arthritic pains in wrist, ankle and neck, and realised, ‘No, I cant manage it.’)
He understood. We both cried.
‘I want you to be happy,’ he said.
‘And I want you to be,’ I said. ‘But how can we be?’
But I also said, ‘This has been forced on us. The Universe seems to want us to be in this situation. There must be a reason, and it must be a good reason. So it’s up to us to accept the situation and find ways to be happy in it.’ He agreed.
I really do believe this. As I pointed out to him, we got our Housing Department unit and then he began to decline. We had enough time to settle back into Murwillumbah, find our way to the right doctor and other services, reconnect with old friends here whilst maintaining contact with those from our six years in Pottsville ... it was as if it had all been orchestrated. Even the nursing home. It’s the one his daughter and I unanimously selected — and it just happened that the only other one that was possible for him didn’t have a bed available anyway. Not to mention the fact that the one he’s in is only three minutes’ drive from here. He is where he’s meant to be.
Having discovered it was already a permanent situation, today I went to Centrelink, informed them we are ‘separated due to illness’, and gave them his new address. As of May 1st, the day he went into the nursing home, I am on the Single instead of Couples Age Pension and my Carer’s Allowance is cancelled. The next thing is to inform the Housing Department and get my rent adjusted.
It feels like a horrible, inexorable inevitability. I can’t believe that, step by step, I am doing this. Part of me wants to scream and rebel, to grab him and bring him back here. But I see how frail he is and how much he now needs the 24-hour support. I see the patience the nurses have with him, which I was getting pretty short of. I can read poetry online peacefully, without anyone calling for me, needing me. (Well, except the cats, but they’re a bit easier to deal with.)
He is just around the corner, cared for and sleeping. Tomorrow someone else will give him his breakfast, his insulin and his tablets, take his blood sugar, feed him, and help him shower and dress.
Today I reminded him that when we first got together, I was quite happy to have a relationship with him but, having just come out of a marriage that went wrong, I was determined not to jump headfirst into anything. I wasn’t going to share a house with him. In my mind we would keep our autonomy. (That didn’t last long!)
So now we’re back to a courting situation, I told him — and added, ‘But I’m your wife, and don’t you forget it!’ He grinned.