Two years on (and a couple of months) of processing Andrew's final years / months / weeks, I have a lot of hindsight now. I recently found myself feeling consciously and deeply thankful that he had me, for his sake, as that enabled both of us to perceive him as autonomous long after he really was not. If I hadn't been there to talk things over with, to cooperate in his plans, to share his activities, I believe now that he would have shown up as confused and incompetent much, much earlier. That spousal partnership kept him on track. And he was happy and confident in it.
I can't bear to think of how it might have been otherwise. I'm so incredibly glad he still had the feeling of being in charge of his life until perhaps the last six months, so much so that neither of us questioned the fact. And it was a nice life, which I know he felt too. Yes, there were the health problems, but for the most part they were not incapacitating until the end. We did have a scare two years earlier, when he had a fall, went to hospital a while, and came home frail — but he recovered from that.
I suppose he would have coped, and had help around him, had I not been in his life. His family would have made sure of that. But still, ours was such a close, intimate connection and we were so like-minded, it made all the difference in the world.
Just before I turned the light out last night, I read a poem by Galway Kinnell about a woman, apparently Kinnell's wife, looking after her father, who had Parkinson's, as if he was the child. So like some of the ways I looked after Andrew! Maybe that's why I had vivid dreams about his children not fully understanding the situation, and about putting him into and taking him out of nursing homes. It became a nightmare — in life and in the dream.
I am glad the nightmare is over. I know his children loved him dearly and understood as best they could. (We were geographically distant from them in their father's last 18 years, which may have made it harder — but it wasn't their doing; it was Andrew and I who moved away.) And yes, I am deeply thankful he had me, and we had each other.
In a way, I still have that. I have become fully aware that he is lodged firmly in my heart for as long as I shall live.