Tuesday, August 19, 2008

fear of death

Carole is home from the hospital. Her MRI showed several small strokes -- both she and her husband said they stood out plainly on the scan as white areas -- "here, here, here..." While we were visiting her, several hours before she was released, another friend of theirs showed up -- a former nurse and neighbor, who let it slip that in fact she had suggested Carole head to the ER immediately on Monday of last week -- and that maybe next time Carole wouldn't be so stubborn. Monday. They didn't admit her until Friday, when the speech slurring made it obvious that something was wrong. She lay in her bed puking sick for days and wouldn't go in.

She sounds as if she's just returned from the dentist, when she speaks -- you can still hear her words clearly, even on the phone. They say that with PT, her speech and fine motor skills will improve. I'm worried that she's a wee bit addled as well -- a literal absent-mindedness. I don't know -- I've heard that blood vessels do regrow in the brain, bringing circulation to areas formerly cut off by blockage. I hope her PT and new medications will help. She'll be upset and impatient with any inabilities.

The husband really doesn't want to talk about these things. Mortality is not a subject he has comes to grips with in any way; not that I'm all that well-adjusted. But he has a strong emotional aversion to talking about these things. I hope to God I never become really ill -- I know he intends me to outlive him -- I just can't imagine how he would cope. When my father died, from an aneurism, the husband spent days pretending he could just go on with business as usual, as though nothing had happened. And we can't ever talk about suicide, not even in the abstract, because of his own history -- he gets really upset, angry, when the subject appears. Not often, but often enough -- I lost a cousin not long ago to suicide, and of course it's a news feature from time to time. And because we can never talk about it, and therefore never do, I occasionally forget and make some unfortunate reference -- to my cousin, to someone who steps in front of a train as reported on TV, to the death of some celebrity -- and then we always a confrontation. Because it's Not To Be Discussed. Ever. People who do that are horrible, selfish, quitters -- that's his take on it. They abandon their spouses, children, responsibilities. My cousin died for reasons very similar to the ones in play when the husband lost a family member himself -- mental illness. Bipolar disorder in my cousin's case, untreated schizophrenia in the other. And because my man doesn't seem to have gotten past the anger stage of his grief, it's all the same to him.

Which brings us around to mortality, and his mother, and the fear we all feel in the face of this knowledge. I want him to have the inner resources he'll need to deal with this, when the time comes. But there's nothing I can say -- after almost 11 years, I've said everything. So we have to find other ways.

Right now she's good, and that's all that matters.

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