Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Joyce and Henry

My husband works with a woman named Joyce. She is an ex-hippie, has a great sense of humor, and is caretaker for both a teenage granddaughter and a husband with advanced Alzheimer's. Joyce is 63, and I met her husband Henry at a party put on my husband's company last year. Henry is mostly a vacant shell of a man. Joyce said that he was having a "good day".

Caring for Henry is exasperating, stressful, expensive, and a deed of the heart. A doctor told Joyce that Henry should be "in a home" and Joyce rebelled strongly at this advice. Henry is also a diabetic and has to be watched constantly so that he doesn't eat something that will send him into a coma. He has been in a diabetic coma several times and has had heart attacks where his heart flat-lined, but Joyce always demands that he be resuscitated. Her grown children are puzzled, why doesn't Joyce let Henry go? In their home every door leading to the outside has a funny alarm on it so that Henry won't wander. You step on a pad as you leave, and then punch a code into the alarm to switch it off. When Henry steps on the pad, he doesn't understand about punching in the code, so automatically, the alarm goes off. The alarm going off is sometimes what wakes Joyce in the middle of the night.

Joyce is not quite my husband's boss but close. I know that my husband and Joyce share a bond of experience of having a loved one who is disabled. They swap stories about their spouse. My husband is always open to hearing about Henry, and Joyce has learned a lot about me. I think that these two people know that they are sometimes going to the limit for the person they love, and that maybe, others wouldn't understand it.

Neither Henry nor myself are abusive toward their spouse (although I can be irritated mightily - and I will occasionally say a cutting, insensitive thing). What we both provide, in vastly different ways, is companionship. I don't know the difference between co-dependency and love, except perhaps, that love somehow makes you feel fulfilled and heroic and co-dependency makes you feel like a victim.

There is also a man at work that my husband has less interaction with then Joyce. Always this man, to my husband's special eyes, has had a damaged aura. The light around his head was weak and had cracks or holes in it. My husband judged, by the aura, that this man wasn't happy.

Than a strange thing happened. This man's wife got sick. It wasn't a passing sickness, and I don't know if it was life threatening, but it was disabling. To my husband's astonishment, the man's aura changed in a positive way. The light grew stronger and the holes and cracks disappeared. Here he is with a crisis on his hands, which would lead to depression and despair in most people, but his aura was showing signs of health and healing! My husband had to conclude that this man was in a new position of taking care of his wife, and that this gave his life meaning and purpose that lifted him up. He was needed by his wife like never before and this was, for his soul (the aura is the light of the soul) a good thing. Perhaps, through his wife's illness, he grew closer to her. Perhaps he felt more like an important man being the primary breadwinner. The aura never tells you why, it only tells you the condition of the person at the moment. All my husband knows for certain, is that around the time this man's wife got sick, the health of his soul improved.

My husband says that I'm good for his Karma. What he means is that he feels that after he dies he will stand before his God (a female God for him) and be judged by what he has done while he was living. Until he met me he made many mistakes in life and felt that should he be judged, he would fair poorly. He would be a disappointment in his God's eyes. But since he met me, and started to care for me, he hasn't made the same kind of mistakes and he believes that his relationship to me will give him bonus points with his God. He is very aware that I am financially dependent upon him, and perhaps emotionally as well, and he knows that he is responsible for another person's life. It must be a little bit like what a father feels toward his young child. He knows that the child's health and well-being rests in his arms. And yes, I believe some father's or mother's resent their children for this dependency, while others only rejoice. I bet that in many therapy sessions a parent has said, "I wish I never had kids". But I know that when my husband's daughter was born (she was an unplanned pregnancy - sperm somehow got past his girlfriend's diaphram) my husband's mind turned inside out, because suddenly, there was someone in the world who was more important to himself than himself. My husband believes that this shift in world view was an important step in personal growth. He felt like he would do anything to protect and be with his daughter, and to be so selfless made him feel like a better man.

I have an unhappy task to do this Easter day. My family will be getting together and I will be seeing my brother. My brother has asked that I return a painting that I bought from him. It is a painting of two red apples on a mysterious black swing. It is the best painting he ever made and he stopped painting after he made it. Years ago he named an outrageous sum of money for it, and as I was newly divorced with a flush bank account, and I paid what he asked. But now he told me in an email that he feels like it is "a lost child" to him and he has offered me the choice of three paintings of his in return for this one, special painting.

I'm really torn because I love this painting, but I love my brother too. I find that I cannot deny him his request. He doesn't know it, but when I made a will, I specifically willed this painting back to him. In my will there were only four items that I cared where they went, and this painting was one of them. I made certain that after my death the painting would be placed in the hands that love it the most.

I am selfish with owning the painting and enjoy looking at it, I enjoy knowing that I own a treasure, but I love my brother and I cannot say no to him. In this case, love hurts a little. I wonder, with amusement, if everyone in the family is in thrall to my brother and find that they can't say no to him. He is the golden child. And yet, in every way, he seems perfectly ordinary.

I'm glad that after I finish painting a painting, I am done with it, and send it out into the world to have merry little adventures!

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