In Sickness and in Health

Let’s get real for a minute. Whether you’ve been married once or more than once, when you are planning for “the big day” it’s likely that while you certainly give at least a passing thought (let’s hope so or your ass shouldn’t be getting married) to the vows you are about to take, my guess is that you might, at least for the immediate future be more focused on the menu, the venue, and can I still look like an ingenue? Am I right? Come on, I know I was. I certainly took marriage seriously, but I was 24 and giddy at the thought of the white dress and veil and all the trappings. The vows, while I spoke them with emotion were quickly forgotten as the party began.

My husband was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 17. This was back in the day before disposable needles and insulin pumps. He was a pioneer. He took care of himself and stuck to the regimen needed to survive this hideous disease. But no matter what one does, the disease ultimately wins and throughout his life and our marriage, he had his challenges and occasional setbacks and hospitalizations. We dealt with it and life went on. We never let it stop us. We had our family. We went to Disney World, put our girls through private school, watched them get married and became grandparents. We lived a contented life. It was all the usual “stuff.” But always lingering in the background was IT. IT was the realization that eventually he was going to deteriorate and the “betes,” as my hilarious and irreverent daughter who also is a Type 1 warrior calls it, would rear its ugly head and declare victory one last time. But it would be sneaky about it–and it would make me not such a nice person sometimes.

Up until the last five years of his life, my guy was doing pretty well. Of course, he was slowing down; we all are, but for the most part, we enjoyed our life together. He did depend on me and admittedly I could get cranky sometimes, but we survived. Where I really shone in the rip-roaring bitch on wheels department, and I am here to tell you that I am not proud of it, is in the last year of his life. I make no excuses. I was tired, overwhelmed, and essentially alone, and unfortunately, he took the brunt of my bad moods when they occurred. To his credit, and my eternal regret, he was so understanding and recognized that I was just having a bad day. Fortunately, my bad days were in the minority. Most of the time, I put on a brave face and adopted a “git ’er done” attitude. Without going into detail, but I am sure those of you who have ever served as a caregiver will understand, the task can be backbreaking—and heartbreaking. Seeing your spouse so vulnerable is soul wrenching and it sometimes just sucks the last bit of resolve out of your psyche. There were days I had nothing left to give. One of my fondest and yet saddest memories is when after performing a particular task, he would look at me and say one of two things. He would say either “Thank you” or “I’m sorry.” My answer to him would always be the same: “Didn’t we take some sort of vow? In sickness and in health or something like that? You’re just cashing it in early.”

3 thoughts on “In Sickness and in Health

  1. I am enjoying this Mary. Although we went into this widowhood differently, the results are the same. Maybe we can learn from each other. Looking forward to the next edition. Judy

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  2. Omg! This speaks to me so loud! I have as caretaker to my husband for 8 years due to a debilitating stroke. I went through all those emotions and feelings you describe. Heart wrenching is the correct term. It took our souls……

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