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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Your Dying Spouse 64 - Family, Untied {MF}

Welcome to this week's Five Minute Friday post, the keyword-inspired timed writing challenge hosted by the gracious Kate Motaung.

We're also linked with Messy Marriage's Wedded Wednesday.

The word this week is FAMILY.

Execute.

For me, childhood was a time to forget, and the whole experience made 'family' into something like an obscenity for me, and I am using that word very deliberately.

Flash forward to terminal illness in middle age, and that's causing some unexpected problems for my wife.

barbara came from a small but close-knit family in the midwest. Her mother died in 2013, but her father (who visited us two weeks ago) is going strong. She also has two younger brothers. Family is important to her, and there is a lot of emotional interdependence.

I'm the opposite. I'm emotionally restrained (did I hear someone say 'stunted'?) and extremely self-contained. I had to be; I learned early that there was no one to help me, and that any sign of weakness was something my enemies - my family - would exploit.

So now, in crisis, my reactions and needs are nothing like barbara would expect. Her mother was ill for a couple of years before dying and while she wasn't 'needy', she did rely on her family's emotional support, and she leaned into them for comfort...and they could lean into her in the apprehension of their coming loss.

They could cling to one another, and cry.

I can't do that. I can't even imagine doing that.

And Barbara feels helpless, and sometimes useless. In her eyes, I'm holding it in, not trusting her with my fears and hurts. I'm keeping her out of the inner circle.

What she doesn't understand, and thankfully, I think, can't understand is that there is no inner circle.

There's nothing to hold in. I'm dying, I don't want to, sometimes the physical manifestations are frightening, but there's nothing about which to weep. It's just life, and death.

She asks me what she can do, and I tell her, in conscious imitation of the rebooted Spock, "Please continue to perform admirably at work."

That is what's important to me.

She needs the job (and she does it so well that the company needs her). She doesn't just need it for the money; she needs it for the self-definition it provides and provided, that she could re-enter the workforce when I got too sick to work, and be a success.

It's not that I'm soulless and practical, at least, I don't think so.

It's just that I learned to be OK in a hard school, and I'm OK now. She can tend to herself.

I'm good to go.

(But I'd rather stay.)

Endex.

Another tough one, and another very hard day. I wasn't sure I would be able to write tonight, but seeing the topic, I felt that I had to...this is important.
I don't know how many others there are like me, but I hope that maybe it will provide illumination that might ease, just a little, the heartache.

52 comments:

  1. Love reading your words! I so resonate with how you experience and experienced life. And I am sorry you could not rely on your "family". Now, I think I more so resonate with your wife, or some in between, having been a little bit a part of a non bio family that functions similarly as your wife's seems to. I sort of feel like a half mix :) Is it challenging for you to type? And I totally get working for the self-definition it provided. Not just that, but the schedule and routine of work was really good for me. Another good piece Andrew. Thank you for putting it out there and letting me hear your heart.

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    1. Syndal, thank you so much! it's interesting that a non-bio family can have that kind of closeness, and a good thing. I was delighted to read this.

      Yes, typing is hard. The movement is painful, and what makes it more intersting is that I sustained an injury to my left eye recently. It's healing, and now it's showing only three extra images (rather than six), but I am wearing an eeye patch much of the time.

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  2. Dear Andrew, your words are important. I've not been in your or Barbara's shoes, but it seems to me that you are giving her a gift as you encourage her to do something she is good at. It must be difficult to navigate these unchartered waters but you seem to be doing so admirably. Grateful to read your words again tonight.

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    1. Holly, thank you so much. I do my best, but sometimes it seems to fall short, as I guess we all feel sometimes.

      But I'll dp my best again tomorrow.

      Thank you for being here!

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  3. I'm with Holly—so glad you could post tonight.

    I nevef thought about growing up and learning to be self-sufficient and slf-contained. I imagine you and Barbara do a dance some dsys as she seeks to pour her love out on you some days through helping you, and you not feeling the need for her help.

    I'm praying for you, friend, as you and Barbara walk this path together.

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    1. You're absolutely right about the dance, Jeanne. And the hardest - and most damaging part is that it's physically quite painful to speak now (diaphragm movement) and so I can't really explain it. Me speech is like a 78 rpm record played back at 33 1/3.

      Thank you so much for the prayers, and for being here.

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  4. Andrew,
    I don't think I would have been able to discern that your "tough" demeanor came from childhood rather than your military background. You really let us in tonight. Part of me weeps for you, as my children are at that tender age where you were abandoned.
    And yet, I call to mind His promise. "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5.
    And truly, you are His child. I know that you know that, too.
    Blessed are you, Andrew, for you know Whose you are, and you share that hope with many, though it literally pains you to write it.

    I'm super thankful for your sacrifice to continue to post each week. I'm as happy as the pups in your book when they got their can of juice in the bowl! :D

    Blessings to you and Barbara. I pray she can understand that the support you need from her is the knowledge that she will be okay when you are no longer able to be there. Your concern is not for yourself, but for her. How true a testimony.
    "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:3)

    Your life is not important to you (though you fight to keep it with every chance you have). Her life is immensely important to you. Bravo to your selfless love. May God continue to bless you both!

    (linked at #9 today)
    ~Tammy

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    1. Tammy, all I can really say is a big Thank You. You read it exactly right.

      It does hurt to write, all the more so because of the eye injury; even though it's covered, it wants to move in concert with the good eye, and that just plain hurts.

      You're right that my life is not important to me; Barbara mentioned that the other day, as well (she didn't read this post), but how could it be otherwise? The person who tried to hang onto life will lose it, and the dude that lets go finds it.

      Thank you so much for being here. Your encouragement means more to me than I can possibly say, and probably rather more than you might guess.

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  5. We'd rather have you stay too. Tonight's post is an open window to you and your soul...a place I don't believe you have let us in before. It seems to me that you recognize Barbara's gifts and want her to use them especially when she feels useless. May you be blessed dear brother in Christ.

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    1. Tara, thank you...I do want to stay, but if that's not in the cards, it's okay.

      I guess I get to blame Kate, for choosing 'family'; it required addressing something I'd have prefer to have let be, but it was, in the end, necessary.

      And necessary, too, to understand why sometimes a caregiver can be unintentionally made to feel useless. God knows it's the last thing I want to convey.

      Thank you so much for being hear, my friend.

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  6. Oh Andrew, don't know what to say, honestly, but I'm thinking of you, and your wife. Blessings and strength for the days ahead. Helen

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    1. Helen, thank you so very much. Having an idea of what you've faced, and the courage which with you've faced it...I draw strength from that.

      I don't have more than a generic idea of what you look like - but when I open the dictionary to the word 'brave' I shall see your picture.

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  7. it's ok to weep, Andrew. no need to be stoic. it's ok to let a tear fall.

    i've got extra Kleenex box around here somewhere.

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    1. May need some of that Kleenex, Linda. I'm very tired, and in more pain than I could have imagined even when I wrote this two days ago.

      A miracle would be good, just about now.

      And you're in my prayers, dear friend.

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  8. Oh Andrew - your words touch my heart -- they touch a deep chord in my own marriage and family. In our family of three, we have practical and stoic, we have heart on your sleeve, and we have purity of emotion. And we are family - supportive and unjudging. As you are -- you and your wife. I am glad you're still here, sharing with us; I wish you were not in pain. Continuing to pray for you and your family. Blow a kiss to Barbara and wrap yourself in a warm hug.

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    1. As three supports are needed for stability...how wonderful that you have those three in your family, Janet!

      I'm glad to still be here too, though as things stand now I could RALLY use some relief from pain. It can be hard to see how it can get worse, but it does, each day for the past...gosh, weeks? I have lost count.

      The kiss is delivered, and the hug is truly appreciated. Thank you for that. Those words, those sentiments, and IMPORTANT.

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  9. I kind of get your stoic response to things, Andrew. I don't take it to the extreme that you do. Sometimes I wonder if I was a man, how much further I would take my own withheld emotions? I do think being a woman has given me more insight and freedom to explore my more vulnerable side. But what I see here is you loving your wife in the only way you know how. It is something I hope she looks for underneath the logical and practical veneer. It is there--your great love and concern for her even as you stare down death and perhaps more seriously because you are. I have to say, I envy those who can cry easily and publicly. I cry in front of my husband at times, but really that's it--and it takes a whole lot to get me to that point. You are in my thoughts and prayers and I believe you are live today--another day upon day--because of the many prayers of your Christian friends. We all love you, Andrew!

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    1. Beth, first and foremost, thank you for that last sentence. You cannot know - or yes, I think you do - how much it means to me at this moment.

      There are times when I wonder how different we really are, male and female, in terms of the expression of emotion. We're certainly enculturated, that goes without saying, but I have the feeling that the baseline emotional 'settings' are far closer than we realize, or perhaps would like to admit.

      When I went through therapy to face the the events of mu childhood, I became emotionally very labile for a short time. Certain things would unleash a feeling of pure heartbreak.

      But as those boils (which I won't describe, don;t worry!) were lanced and drained, and allowed to heal over, I became, once again, what Barbara has come to call Secret Asian Man.

      Had to get that one in, sorry.

      But it's not an affectation; I don't know what that depth of emotion really feels like (even now, I have quite lost the feeling of the 'therapeutic' emotions). I can't know how it feels to 'want to feel' free to express myself.

      But I do think that these that are absent sharpens that which remains, and that is Love. It's worth dying for.

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  10. Praying for you, Andrew and now, for Barbara too. You are a part of this family knit together by words and I know I speak for many when I say we love yours. I'm thinking you may not be crazy about them, but I'm sending you a ((hug)) - pass it on to Barbara if you'd rather. :)

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    1. I do like hugs, Tiffany; virtual ones are best, because the physical hugs simply hurt.The last time I was bear-hugged, I passed out. Rather humiliating, that.

      An I do som appreciate being one with this wonderful family; this place, these people have sustained me more than I can express without sounding hopelessly maudlin.

      Thank you for being here. You have brightened my evening!

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  11. Praying for you and Barbara, my friend! I love my family, but I don't spend a lot of time with my siblings--they all live in the same town and I moved away to attend college and never moved back--and so they kind of expect me to always come to them (and it's been a financial burden for us to do that). So, while there's no bad blood, I wouldn't call us close-knit. My church community served as family during Pedro's cancer year. It's only now, years later, that I'm opening up more about what I went through (and having family or a confidant close by would probably have been healthier for me!).

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    1. Having a strong church community is so very, very important.

      And I suspect that, from having gotten to know you by the words you share, that perhaps you needed to face the cancer year within yourself, before opening up.

      Thank you so much for being here. I truly, truly appreciate your presence, and your comments.

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  12. Everybody is different. Such is life. The hard part is when our differences intersect negatively with each other. My family and Jeff's family are fairly similar in these matters but there are differences and they can stand out at times, for better or worse. Praying that Barbara continues getting the support that works for her, wherever that comes from, and that you remain okay with being okay.

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    1. IYour comment brings physics to mind, Lisa...when waves are in phase and build on one another.

      For a surfer, it's a dream come true. For a column of troops forgetting to break step whilst crossing a bridge (and building on the bridge's natural harmonics), it can lead to a long fall and a cold and unanticipated bath.

      Not sure where I was going with that one...bit of a rough go, and I may be a touch loopy.

      Ah, yes. Differences. Terminal illness, or ANY crisis changes one's perspective, probably permanently (ask me later, if I survive!). Barbara wants to do some things for me, to make it easier while she's here on the weekend.

      I sometimes, well...often...resist, because she won't be here on Monday, and I have to know that I will be able to do them on my own, then.

      It's unreasonable and pretty stupid-sounding...but it's the truth.

      Thank you so much for being here today.

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  13. Oh friend... You do have family who loves you and supports you and who prays for you and we are all so glad you are here... so glad you are writing through this journey... and we are praying for you to stay too! Praying also for your Barbara! Thanks for letting us in!

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    1. Karrilee, thank you! Your words are a balm to my spirit. Yesterday was rough; today has been infinitely worse.

      Feeling that love is the only thing that is keeping me going right now. Defiance has a limit, attitude has a limit, prayerful surrender...well, ok, surrender's not something I do, but you get my point!

      In the end, we do it for each other.

      Thank you for being here. Thank you for your friendship.

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  14. Thank you for sharing more of your soul with us, Andrew. It is a miracle that God brings two people, different in many ways, together to live such a beautiful life. He is wonderful that way as they get to learn so much from each other. Thinking of you always, Andrew and praying for peaceful minutes and days.

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    1. It was a hard decision to take, Kim - thi was a part of my life that I did not want to revisit. But I suspect that there are more people with similar stories than we expect (or hope to find), and that sharing this might offer some measure of understanding, if not hope.

      Thank you so much for being here, and most especially for your prayers.

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  15. You're good to go but you'd rather stay. I'm praying that you do. xo

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    1. Susan, thank you...I really want to stay...I mean, who wants to miss the new Star Wars picture?

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  16. Praying for you and Barbara, you stopped by my blog and saw my side from the funeral perspective. I don't know if you noticed, but i talk fairly mechanically about the things that weigh heaviest on me. I don't want to bring others down, I don't want to be judged or left to feel--- Anything.... That is a hard truth. My family and my experience with domestic violence has caused me to be a HUGE introvert. I would much rather watch everyone live life than to be part of the chaos. I enjoy being the observer, yet, for me, it does boil over, it does come out and when it does? Thats not pretty. My words become dark, my soul becomes shadowed over and I can not longer see the Light. I get reckless and even dangerous towards myself and my tongue becomes sharper than any knife. So writing has become an outlet for me, online friends have become a safe haven, because when i speak the truth online, I don't see the faces, I don't care if someone blocks me for how I feel and the list goes on. A lot of people online pretend to be someone they are not, but for me, online is the one place where I can be 100% myself. I am happy you are finding a new definition of family in the FMF group. We really are like a crazy brood of relatives, except, we have two things in common, a desire/need to write, and our faith! I pray that today is a better day for you than yesterday was. Happy you felt encouraged to take the time and push through. <3

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    1. Marisa, I hope this is a comfort to you, that I DID see just those things in your post. I, too, have been something of an extreme introvert.

      Someone once said that i lived my life in the third person. Very illuminating, that.

      I'm so glad to hear that you've found the FMF group a place where you can be 100% 'You'! It's thatway for me, too.

      Thank you for being here - and for the transparent and illuminating comment.

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  17. Echoing what Susan Shipe said. My first husband died after 15 years of illness. That you are sharing your story is ... I can't even think of a word. You are giving me insights into my husband five years after his death. I cannot thank you enough.

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    1. Shelby, your comment touches my heart in a deeper place than I can describe. If I gave you that insight, it has been worth everything it took, and cost, to get here.

      Thank you for being here today. You're a blessing on my soul at this moment.

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  18. Andrew, I haven't commented before but I want you to know that your words so touch my heart. I pray for you and your wife often. Thank you for your courage and your honesty in all you write.
    Lynette

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    1. Lynette, thank you so much.

      I did visit your blog...this morning, I think, though I am not sure...today was a bit tough. I think I did not feel up to leaving a comment...I couldn't be coherent.

      But let me say this; your courage, faith and fortitude are an inspiration.

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  19. I pray Barbara's company always needs her. The company I worked for laid me off a year after Joe's passing. I did not realize how much the job and I were one, and how much of my confidence and self-esteem was tied to the job. Praying Barbara never experiences such a hit. Praying you and Barbara experience peace and joy this weekend.

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    1. You addressed something very real...and I am so sorry that things have been hard for you, Michele! You bring such hope and an illumination of faith to those around you!

      Thank you for the kind thoughts, and most especially...for being here.

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  20. another very self-revealing, vulnerable post! so beautiful! blessings to you, and thanks again for visiting my blog again.

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    1. Thank you...and I do enjoy your blog. I get there when I can, when I am physically able.

      I appreciate you.

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  21. Andrew, I think in reading your post, you are giving Barbara a priceless gift. Several actually. You have given her purpose and meaning and hope. Each one so needed now & in the days ahead. Praying for you both this morning!

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    1. Joanne, thank you for saying this; it is that which I try to do...and sometimes I feel that I am failing.

      That you can recognize it from afar, as it were...that gives me renewed hope.

      Blessing, and thanks for being here today.

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  22. I'm so thankful you wrote Andrew! I'm praying for Barbara, you of course you too.

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    1. Christy, thank you! Bot for being here, and for the prayers. I really, really appreciate them.

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  23. Your words are a gift, Andrew, to many. Thank you.

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    1. June, thank you...that means a lot.

      And your presence here, today, is a gift to me. Thank you for this.

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  24. Knowing your wife is going to be okay is a huge relief. And in her case, part of that is family.

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    1. Exactly right. Paul. It's everything.

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  25. Knowing your wife is going to be okay is a huge relief. And in her case, part of that is family.

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  26. Andrew, you continue to inspire so many through your words. Sharing your journey is making a different in my life and so many others. I am praying for you my friend, and for Barbara. I too would like nothing more than a miracle for you!

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  27. Family is important - but depending on how you were brought up...it could be a "take it or leave it" kind of situation. I fully understand that!!

    Thinking of Barbara and wanting her to have what she needs - family, friends, a job, financial and other security - yes, these are important. But having her as your family now, is important to you.

    You continue to amaze me with the words you are sharing! Thank you for opening your heart, and your life, with your readers. We are all here, praying for you...that last bit..."I'm good to go. (But I'd rather stay)" speaks volumes!

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  28. Aw. Such love, devotion and respect. Through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. :)

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