The first weeks after he died was completely filled up by to do lists. There was so much to do and so many people around us, that the pain was different somehow.
But now, there is more time and space for grieving. And it's a whole new level of not-so-great. I envy people who still have the presence of their "significant other," and I find I don't have a lot of patience right now for people who complain about their husbands/wives. It's not that I lack compassion for the little bits and pieces that ARE annoying, frustrating, whatever. I just find myself wanting to yell, "Wake up! This all has a REAL expiration date!"
I don't, because no one needs me to be their personal Jeremiah. And I suspect a lot of folks just avoid the topic all together because they don't want to open any wounds, or maybe even because I might look/act like a loaded weapon about to go off. That is probably truer than I want to admit to myself sometimes.
A few days ago, an acquaintance posted one of those standard old "ball and chain" kind of gags - you know the set up - husbands escaping their nagging wives, blah blah blah. And all I could think was, "REALLY????" I completely lack the capacity to shrug that stuff off at this point. It's just feels mean to me - and I have to say, I am not a stranger to sarcasm or irony, so I THINK I still mostly have my sense of humor.
And in that vein, I have begun tackling one of the projects I have been putting off for months now - sorting through the last of Alex's things and figuring out what to do with them.
And this brings me to the naked lady problem....
When Alex was first diagnosed, we were made aware that as the disease progressed, his ability to communicate verbally would get progressively worse. If you haven't had to face something like this, lucky you - but perhaps you can imagine how that might have felt.
Considering that, we decided to enroll Alex in a drawing class. Once a week, Alex and his best friend, Craig, sat in a studio with a nude model and sketched for hours at a time. The hope was that when he couldn't talk to us, he would be able to draw.
That turned out to be kind of true over the long haul - and more importantly, with a notebook in hand, we could take him places and give him a crutch to distract him when he was anxious or restless or maybe not able to behave appropriately. He could always draw. And for a very long time, it made him happy.
And, because behavioral variant frontotemporal degeneration affects the part of the brain that "filters" for you, Alex was completely obsessed with nudity and sex - in the early stages, pretty much all the time. Drawing naked ladies suited him perfectly.
Now, I have hundreds and hundreds of naked lady drawings in my study, and it is a miserable thing thinking about throwing ANY of them away. Some of them are pretty rubbishy actually, but even in the ones he obviously didn't care about, there is a glimpse of something special, something unusual, something he was able to see and experience that was going through his own re-organizing brain.
Thank God we live in a digital age - because I took pictures of the corners and bits of the ones I finally DID decide to part with, so that I could record them and remember them
Here is a brief sample for your consideration:
There are many more, and these are just the ones I parted with.
Two weeks ago, I saw a grief counselor. It's something you get for free as part of the hospice package. Who knew? Much of what we talked about was all-too familiar. But she said something to me that resonated. She said, "You will always have a relationship with Alex. It's just different now." So here's to that relationship - and if you are lucky enough to be in the presence of someone who loves you and understands you and "gets" you, I hope this will make you think for just a moment how utterly remarkable that is!