I wish I didn’t find a good door slam so satisfying, but this morning it provided the perfect punctuation to an early morning argument. “Fine, have a great time taking care of yourself!” I angrily blurted out in one of my least admirable moments as a caregiver. Today most definitely falls under the heading of “one of those days.” I love my husband and he loves me, but the overwhelming suckiness of this all occasionally swallows us up in its infinite sucky vortex.
There is a reason that 75% of couples who go through brain injury ultimately choose divorce. In fact, there is plethora of reasons. While I am fully aware of the many odds stacked against us, TC is only beginning to get his first glimpses into how difficult this battle will be in the long term. By lunchtime, our anger and frustration had evolved into a sobbing mess of self-pity and sadness. We sat across the table from each other, picking at our plates, and grabbing Kleenex by the handful.
“I wasn’t mad before,” sobbed TC, “But I wasn’t seeing it all. I could only see a little and I thought, ‘It’s OK, I’m fine.'”
“I know,” I agreed. “It’s just sucks. It just (insert expletive) sucks.”
And from the man, who until this point had approached the entire situation with an unbelievable dose of positivity and light heartedness, finally came the question that constantly burns in my brain, “Why? Why us?”
So we sat there, crying, trying to make sense of how we exactly we got here: in a stranger’s rental home, back in our hometown, far away from our best friends and the jobs we so dearly loved.
“I’m so mad. I’m so mad. I’m just so bored!” yelled TC.
“Mad, you mean. Not bored.” I corrected him as I sighed in my head. That horrible beast aphasia won’t even allow my husband to bitch and complain properly. It interferes with absolutely every moment and is most noticeably present during those moments that are supposed to provide me with the most comfort.
Case in point: an hour later after TC and I have cried it out, hugged it out, and vowed to be tougher, he turns to me and says, “I love you, Bubby. I trust you. You’re my brother.”
I wonder to myself what part of that statement is worth correcting. The part where he called me by Jack’s nickname? Or the part where he referred to me as his brother? I go for the latter.
“You mean wife.” I tell him gently.
“Yes, mother. I mean mother.” TC corrects himself.
“Not mother, not brother. Wife.” I try again. After a few more tries, he finally gets it.
Most people would agree with marriage itself is a challenging relationship, but TC and I are walking a slope so slippery in our marriage that it requires consistent attention and planning. If I constantly correct him in his speech or remind him to take his meds or insist that he take a nap, I no longer serve the role of wife. I become his mother/caregiver. If I give him total independence, I run the risk that he will hurt himself or Jack or just drive me completely crazy.
It’s a delicate balance to achieve: knowing when to step in and when to let him take the reigns. He desperately wants to be trusted to be alone with Jack during the occasions I need to go out and run errands. That is what sparked our fight early this morning. Although I’m sure he and Jack would probably be fine, I’m not quite there yet in trusting him. If, God forbid, they had an emergency, TC would not be able to dial 911 and explain the situation or even where we live. I had to remind him of this point during our cry fest of a lunch.
“You’re right,” he conceded. “I can’t take care of my own son. I can’t take care of my Bubby. It sucks. It just sucks.”
Sucks, by the way, is a word I condone 100% these days. After years of telling students to erase that word from their vocabulary, I have been proven wrong. There are some things in this life that truly do just suck. And today may be one of them.
I think about the brain injury divorce statistic a lot, even though it’s not staggeringly different from the odds of all marriages. I know that to stay together and preserve this beautiful relationship for the long haul, we are going to have to be exemplary in every single way. Patience will have to continue to be the virtue that defines me and my approach, especially on those days where I feel like the furthest person from Mother Theresa or Ghandi. I am going to require many self-reminders to step away from the situation and to think instead of reacting. And I am going to have to learn how to forgive myself for being human sometimes, for getting angry, even when it’s displaced. I suppose these are the reminders all married people require.