Life is busy these days. When TC was in the hospital, I used to write late at night to fill the void that existed in those moments before I closed my eyes. I sleep much easier now that he is home. I feel secure in knowing exactly where he is and that he is safe. Sheer exhaustion also makes it easier to sleep. My new role as a full time caregiver/stay at home mom is more demanding than any job I’ve had before. TC grows more independent each day, but the task of coordinating all of my administrative responsibilities is enormous. I’m behind in all my e-mails, phone calls, etc. I struggle to remember our day to day schedule. I’m juggling a long to-do list that includes administering medication, helping TC with physical exercises, trying to engage with Jack in a way that doesn’t involve Sesame Street, and occasionally remembering to feed the dog. It’s grueling. And in the spare down moment, I crave quiet, coffee, and mindless TV.
A significant bulk of my energy is devoted to trying to understand what TC says. I have always attributed the strength of our marriage to solid communication skills. My mom used to ask me, “Don’t you guys ever fight?” Like any couple, TC and I have had our fair share of disagreements, but I’ve always appreciated the respectful and logical approach we’ve taken to solving our problems. We didn’t raise voices. We discussed things. Language played a very important role in our relationship, but his aphasia means we must think creatively and act patiently in order to work around this major obstacle.
Some conversations go better than others. His language improves every day, but he still has far to go. I struggle in determining how often to correct him when he’s speaking gibberish. Often he will blabber on and on and none of what he has said contains real words. Other times I will try to correct him if he has used a word mistakenly, but he doesn’t always want correction. I can’t imagine the frustration of trying to be heard when you can’t articulate the words you’d like to say. It didn’t occur to me for the first few weeks we were home that TC rarely understood what was planned for him in a given day. We would get in the car to go somewhere and he would have literally no idea where I was taking him. A week ago we were sitting in our new house and I began making a grocery list. I asked TC if there was anything he’d like me to add to it and he began pointing at the list and asking a question I couldn’t understand. It took me an hour to figure out that he was asking me why I was making a grocery list at all. He was under the impression we were only going to be here for a week. He didn’t know why we would need to bother stocking up on groceries. I forget that while I have had 3 months to process the many changes in our lives, TC has had only a few weeks. He describes the majority of the time he spent in the hospital as dreamlike and out of body.
Now that we are in more of a routine, things have gotten easier. I write the schedule for the day on a whiteboard so that he can ask questions about what we are doing and where we are going. He relishes all the time he gets to spend with Jack, although he is easily fatigued by our highly energetic 2 year old. As our day to day life begins to resemble a new normalcy, I feel further and further isolated from the old TC. I have trouble remembering what his speech once sounded like. I forget what it’s like not to be responsible for 90% of the child rearing. I look at his new face and try to remember his features as they were before. I love this new man, take overwhelming pride in his progress and recovery, and count my many blessings. But I sometimes think of the old TC as if he were still around somewhere, planning to return. I talk to him in my head and tell him everything that has happened because I still need to be able to confide in him in the ways that I can’t with the new TC. But as my old husband slips further and further from my reach, my new one grows stronger and stronger. He may not be the same in many ways, but he is equally as remarkable and impressive.