|Bill and me, yesterday|
Bill is 91 years old now. I am 77 years old. We met when I was 22 years old and Bill was 35 years old. What a difference 55 years makes.
Today I am Bill's caregiver.
Bill is hard of hearing. Bill also has macular degeneration of his eyes. He can't see distances.
Bill walks a little slower these days.
Bill spends most of his day sitting in his Archie Bunker chair in the sunroom checking the weather map on his iPad.
Bill doesn't drive these days, unlike when we first met and Bill did all the driving. Our roles have completely reversed.
Once a day I try to take Bill out for his ride. Bill so enjoys his rides. Sometimes I go to the local supermarket. In fact I often go to the supermarket, pacing my purchases out so I have an excuse to go to the supermarket. Sometimes Bill goes in the store with me and sometimes he just sits in the car watching shoppers go to and fro.
Bill goes to bed early (about 7:30 pm) and gets up early (about 1:00 am). Sometimes our days overlap like last night when I was binge watching a Netflix series ("A Place To Call Home").
We're on different eating schedules but I always make a dessert for Bill. His favorite is banana cream pudding with whipped cream and a cherry on the top. That is his treat for the day.
Both of my brothers were my Mother's caretakers. My brother Isaac lived with my Mother at her home in Pennsylvania until she got too much to care for. She didn't want to leave home and we promised her she would never go into a nursing facility (a promise we kept). When she got to be too much for Isaac we tricked her into visiting my other brother John in South Carolina (who had a mother-in-law suite). John and his wife and daughter cared for Mom until she died in 2010 at age 86. Mom, who was always so caring during her life, became bitter towards the end. She always wanted to "got home" but we couldn't do that. The last time Bill and I visited her in South Carolina she was packed and ready to go. It broke out hearts not to take her home with us. The last time I saw her alive, I went into her bedroom. I saw her packed suitcase next to her bed. She was lying on her bed on her back with her arm over her eyes. She didn't see me. I was going to say goodbye but I heard her crying softly. I decided just to leave rather than have a scene. I never saw her alive again. I will never forget that moment as long as I live.
Bill is home. He's happy. He's not bitter.
This past year I've noticed a decline in Bill. He gets more confused. He is frustrated because he can't see as well but he won't go back to the eye doctor because he blames him for his condition. But other than that, Bill is not bitter. In fact he's rather sweet. We don't have the arguments like we used to have in predictable cycles. Things in the past that would trigger an argument don't seem to happen anymore (much to my relief).
There will come the day when one of us passes on. Based on our age it will probably be Bill but one never knows. I could buy the farm tomorrow. Bill says if that happens he'll be right behind me.
One of the things I fear that if Bill goes before I do I will be one great big mess. After spending fifty-five years with someone, I know my life won't be easy. Of course I'm not the first person to face this reality. But still, I remember those days when I was totally alone. That short period of time when I was out of the Army and before I met Bill. I was lost and at time felt like I was going out of my mind. I don't want to be alone again but I don't want to hook up with somebody just to have somebody to keep my company. I've had a few previews of what that life would be like, they were all disasters. Thank goodness Bill saved me from making those disastrous decisions.
Bill is the only person in this world who could stand to live with me. I am difficult, I'll admit that. Although our fifty-five years together hasn't always been smooth sailing (and that's saying something), we managed in spite of all our differences.
Some of you are probably wondering about Pat, my Canadian Travel Buddy. Pat is a great guy and I love him but we could never live together. Other than the obvious fact he's a Canadian (the health care thing) I would drive Pat crazy. As I said, I'm not easy to live with. Pat and I get together four times a year. Three times we spend a week together. The fourth time, our winter adventure in California (Palm Springs this year), we spend two weeks together. Believe me, Pat is relieved when I catch that plane to Philadelphia. This brings to mind the few times I took someone with me when I used to summer vacation in Provincetown, Mass. Those guys couldn't wait to dump me and hook up with someone else (sexual) for their vacation. This happened even several times when I paid for everything. I couldn't get Bill to go with me. He did once but wouldn't come out of his Best Western motel room ("too many gays outside" he said). But I digress. Pat is wonderful to vacation with but no, not a housemate. I.will.be.by.myself if and when Bill is no longer with me.
And folks, I'm not sure how I will handle that.