The Care Giver Realizes He Is Two Persons

I am two people.
Within days after May 8th of this year when my wife died, I began thinking of moving on to a new life. I needed to leave this house where we had lived so long together. I needed to leave this placid suburb, one of America’s favorite towns. No matter if it looked to others as if I was forgetting my wife and running away, I needed to leave. Within days I had spoken to several realtors about selling our home and to my attorney about simplifying my will.
I started planning several photography trips for the near future and began looking for a place to live temporarily in upper New York, near my daughter and son-in-law. With city living in mind, instead of reading the NYTimes opinion pages online, I prowled streeteasy.com looking at apartments in Murray Hill or Gramercy Park.
My days were used trying to bring some order to a house that has fallen into disorder during the last two years of her illness. I used my evenings to sift through the boxes and drawers that my wife had filled with every piece of paper that had ever come into our home. Tax records going back to 1982, documents about buying houses that we had bought in 1986 and sold 15 years later. In the end I had to find a commercial shredding service for the 14 cartons of paper that told the inside scoop on our financial life, that would condemn me to sleepless nights if they went into recycling as is. There were another ten cartons of more benign paper that could just be recycled.
I began gathering and sorting her clothes, none of which were ever thrown away but were carefully kept. Some went to a friend’s daughter to be sold as vintage clothing, most went to Goodwill.
For weeks (six, in fact), every day, I worked at emptying closets and drawers, discarding that enormous tail of ‘stuff’ that we had been accumulating f0r 36 years together.
Today I am close to the end, the house is almost ready to be turned over to the realtors. The painting and carpeting is done, the garage is full of cartons of stuff to be carried with me or given away.
All that is left is some furniture to be arranged, some pictures to be hung, the last few cartons to be carried to the garage and the floors to be vacuumed or swept.
I have trips planned before February to San Francisco, Barcelona-Morocco, Thailand, Laos and Cuba. I will spend the winter with my daughter and son-in-law and then will get an apartment in New York City.
I am taking with me only some of my clothing, camera gear, one dresser that has sentimental value and carton after carton of my pictures and family snaps that I will sort during the first winter.
Everything else will be given away.
I am two people.
One is moving on, making a life out of whatever is left.
The other person, knowing he can’t go back in time, wants to stay where he is.
He wishes time could stay still so he could spend the days looking at pictures of his beloved now-dead wife, holding onto the memories, willingly feeling the grief as just payment for the time they had together.
In the morning, when I am fresh from sleep, I am energetic and run from task to task, energized by seeing the end to all the work and the possibility of a future.
In the evenings, when I am exhausted from the day, too tired even to read, it is the second person who takes over and who thinks until I sleep.

15 thoughts on “The Care Giver Realizes He Is Two Persons”

  1. Sounds like you are very much in the grief process right now. Thirty six years of your life would certainly hold many memories of life with Jackie.
    Glad you are staying busy and making plans to do things you love.
    Take care Lew.

  2. “…willingly feeling the grief as just payment”…I love this.
    Lew , when my late partner died 17 years ago I took 2 years to do what you’ve done in 6 weeks. Every weekend I’d come down to the house to do a bit more sorting and each time “allowed” myself to feel the grief. The rest of the time I was in Sydney, working and pretending to be “getting over it”. I felt fractured.
    I finally was able to move here permanently 14 years ago, and am now watching my love of the past 10 years going through some of what Jackie did. I’m anticipating her needs, mending some of the messes we have been through (as a result of her galivanting symptoms 4 years ago), and slowly healing my anger and angst. It seems we’re on an even keel….for now. Strangely, I think that some of my sadness is leaving my eyes. Acceptance perhaps. Love to you. L

    1. Thanks, Lynda.
      The fear of having the chore drag out and become more terrible is why I jumped in right away.
      Fletcher Christian burned the Bounty when he and the other mutineers landed on Pitcairn Island so that there was no escape and they would have to persevere.
      I listed the house with a realtor so I had to follow through.

  3. What a strange world it is we live in….. a balance of griefing and trying to still live life. I’m glad you have some trips planned. I look forward to seeing your photos. Sending love and hugs.

  4. I like your analogy of the two people. I am also two people even though my spouse is still alive. If we don’t become two people during this long heartbreaking journey then I think we lose our selves. I need to remember and be the woman I have always been, the woman who fell head over heels for my husband, the woman who laughs, loves parties, loves to golf and be social. But now I need to be the woman who can learn the best way to be a caregiver, And still hang on to the essential essence of my husband. Being a caregiver can break down your initial essential relationship while building another relationship. The new relationship, however important, can never have the mind body connection that came with the first. Giving up the partner connection has been the hardest for me. I miss his advice and our conversations. So, two of me. But “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part “, I believe in that. He is my guy.

    1. It is a timing thing ! I too, just list the love of my life in Jan ! I have no doubt Greg knew I was there beyond the end ! Now it’s all SO different , but sadly life does move on – I have trips planed as well ! Hug your man tight .

  5. As always Lew you put into words how I feel. Although Frani has only moved into long term care there is definitely an element of the conflict that you describe. Trying to be strong and “move on” when I don’t want to move on. I don’t want to stop grieving because that makes this all feel real. Otherwise i just becomes a stranger that tells people I’m fine, that I’m getting on with my life. But it’s sll a charade. But that part of me knows I have to keep moving forward and that there is worse to come when he dies. I hope you enjoy your new life. You definitely deserve peace to process the last few years.

    1. Lew,
      Each day I practice living in the moment while preparing my heart for the day I too will be starting my second life. I think about what it will be like turning the light off at night and not having the warming presence of my friend of 33 + years. It is a reminder to me that today is good day and to live it to the fullest.

    2. Karen,
      I think you put your finger on it exactly. It is very hard to believe that ‘this’ is real, that my wife is actually dead. So many of my natural responses and reactions include her – and she is not here. We, most of us, are naturally loyal and somehow we think that we are abandoning our loved one if we go on. Obviously that isn’t true and we have to accept that

        for ourselves

      .

      Lew

  6. I wish it were that easy. I find since my John’s passing I think less and less about the John who was ill and more and more about the man I married and lived with for years before the illness took over. I refuse to look at pictures of him sick. I have deleted all of them from my phone and tossed others. I am choosing to remember who he was not who he became.
    I cannot at this time think of moving forward in my life without him. I know I will I am a strong female as I have been told, but not quite there yet. I go out, keep myself busy, but on the advise of my attorney, accountant, therapist, financial adviser I am not making any decisions as to where I will live, if I will keep working or selling any real estate we owned together. My mind is just not in a place where the decisions I would make now would benefit me in the long run. I will just keep putting one foot in front of the other till I am ready to act.
    It’s been 4 months since John died , not long enough to make anymore life changing decisions. What we all need is time to pass and that goes at its own pace.

    1. I looked back at what I wrote and couldn’t find where I said it was ‘easy’. It wish that making all these changes was just a bit easier.
      Like you I would rather remember my wife as she was before.

  7. Hi Lew. As always, I am deeply moved by your expression of your journey, how it is for you, and how it’s evolving. Your open vulnerability inspires me to keep my focus on softening in the midst of a very uncertain journey of my own that I keep tending to respond to with anger and hardness. Two people! Yes, I so relate, even though my path…for now, anyway, remains nebulous, and could be that way for the rest of my life. I cherish your posts, and am grateful to you sharing your path. And, I know the loss hurts more than I can even understand at the moment.

  8. When my mother passed late last year, she left an envelope that was to be opened upon her death. Inside was the following poem. It certainly does not push the sorrow away, but does offer guidance to carry on in our remaining time in this world.

    Miss Me, But Let Me Go
    By George M. Monseur

    When I come to the end of the road
    And the sun has set for me,
    I want no rites in a gloom-filled room
    Why cry for a soul set free?
    Miss me a little … but not too long
    And not with your head bowed low.

    Remember the love that once was shared,
    Miss me … but let me go.
    For this is a journey we all must take,
    And each must go alone.
    It’s all a part of the Master’s plan,
    A step on the road to home.

    When you are lonely and sick of heart,
    Go to the friends we know,
    And bury your sorrows
    In doing good deeds …
    Miss me … but let me go.

    6 months later, I miss my mother dearly, yet with each day, letting go is a little easier.

    Peace be with you, Lew.

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