My husband died about 15 months ago. When I see couples around my age or older on the street, I feel pangs of envy; why do they still have each other and I don’t have Jack?
But when I see older couples and the man is disabled, using a cane or walker, or in a wheelchair, my feelings are more mixed. There is still envy, but also relief. Jack had become disabled enough before he was hospitalized that we both had a sense of what that meant. And it was very difficult. Were either of us ready for, or able to deal with, those difficulties? Jack definitely was not, and he said so.
Today, as I was leaving my bank’s ATM center, a couple who might have been Jack and me in a possible future were entering. She was pushing him in a wheelchair. He was wrapped up in blankets, head covered with a beret. She was short, maybe about five foot two; he did not seem so short. Someone was holding the door for her. I heard him speaking to her, so it sounded like he was coherent.
How long had she been caring for him? How did they manage personal aspects like getting him into and out of the wheelchair? Surely she needed home health aides to help with his care; I know how expensive that can be. Maybe he lived at the nursing home a block away, and they were just on an outing. But that too is very expensive. And either scenario is emotionally wearing for both caregiver and care receiver.
What was I feeling? Envy? Relief? Both? The impossible?