Life Can Be Very Messy

I was never an immaculate housekeeper, but I thought my house was always clean.  Not so anymore.  I don’t have the time nor the energy to keep up with it all and that bothers me.  The adult children in my house don’t have the time or don’t always make the time to make things clean and tidy.  I am annoyed by constantly seeing clean laundry in the living room, random items in the dining room, and dog fur everywhere.

My husband used to be meticulous about his appearance.  He was that person who had a place for everything and everything in its place.  Alcoholism has certainly changed that.  He leaves food and dirty dishes on the table.  He will take off a pair of disposable underwear, overflowing with urine, and put it on the floor.  He doesn’t appear to remember what a trash can is for.  He has bathed and shaved twice this year.  Previously, thanks to alcohol, he neglected self and surroundings because he didn’t care.  He probably still doesn’t care, but now he is physically unable to safely get items off the floor or sometimes walk up a flight of stairs.  He is becoming physically emaciated and can often have a difficult time walking upright.

Yesterday afternoon I came home from a long shift, opened the front door, and was bombarded by foul smells.  My husband had accidentally peed on the couch.  This has happened before, so there are waterproof pads put down to protect the cushions.  However, those soaked pads were still on the couch along with the wet sheet/couch cover.  An alcoholic’s urine does not smell normal for biological reasons that would be of no interest to most people.  Sometimes the offensive odor is so strong that it can be smelled 30 feet away.

So, I had to change the pee pads, change the sheet, wash all the urine-soaked laundry, plus wipe up the urine that was on the floor by the toilet.  Upstairs in my husband’s bedroom, lying on the rug, was another very used disposable underwear and soiled clothing from the day before.

After cleaning up after him, taking care of dogs, and several hours of schoolwork, I slept well.  When I woke up there were more messes to clean up.  Husband had slept on the couch during the night and had another accident.  He was very apologetic about it.  So, I took care of changing everything on the couch again, and also wiping up more puddles of pee on the floor by the couch and by the toilet.

As I was doing all of this cleaning, seeing a cat litter box that needed to be attended to, piles of laundry where they should be and piles where they should not be, and husband’s messes everywhere, I did not have any overwhelming emotions of anger, sadness, frustration, etc.  It was almost as if I was numb inside.

Then, suddenly I heard a specific song in my head, “…it is well with my soul…”  Everything was put into perspective.  Husband is debilitated and needs to be taken care of, house is not clean but it is not going to kill anyone, children have good jobs that they work hard at, dining room is not needed for meals right now so it is alright for it to be messy at the moment.  I wish it were different, but I will not put myself into an emotional stew because of it.  “Through it all my eyes are on You, and it is well with me.”

 

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Health Crisis?

This past week was the beginning of a new school term, so, just like 3 out of the 4 last terms, my husband had another near-death experience.  He was barely eating, could hardly walk, and was sleeping 18 hours a day.  His body showed physical signs of shut-down.  The suddenly, after a couple days, he did his whack-a-mole imitation and popped right back to his normal state.

Now, I did not think that I was stressed out.  I was able to get all my assignments done and actually work ahead in each class.  I did grieve a little because I honestly thought my husband would not live much longer.  I was looking forward to new school experiences, new information to learn, and seeing my classmates.  I felt relaxed, but could not get my heart to beat normally.  Later that day, I went to the local hospital emergency room.

Heart problems run in my family, in fact, I am the only one not on heart medication.  When I started having symptoms of what could be a heart attack, my son drove me to the ER.  Several hours later, I am told that my heart is a bit erratic, but I am not in any danger at this time.  Just to be sure, I need to wear a 48 hour monitor, which I have on as I type.

Moving around this morning I started feeling stiffness and discomfort in my rib area.  Am I dehydrated?  Am I just needing to stretch out because I didn’t sleep well?  I don’t think that I am stressed out about school or husband.  I took out my stethoscope to listen.  My heart was dancing instead of marching.  Breathe deep.  Remind myself of what the doctor said.

Still was a bit concerned so I got my Bible out and said, “God, I need to hear from you today”.  I love the psalms so I flipped my Bible open towards the middle section.  While scanning the page, I came across phrases such as “Will the foe revile your name…” and “They smashed all the carved paneling…”.  I thought, “This isn’t exactly what I wanted to read”.  Then I looked at the very top of the page.

“but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

I had to laugh.  Of course God would tell me something about my heart when that was the biggest concern I had running through my mind this morning.  I can relax because God’s got this.

Happy Father’s Day (just kidding)

This past weekend was Father’s Day,  a time to honor and celebrate the dads in our lives.  Not exactly a good weekend in my house.  For my husband there were no cards given, no phone calls, no posts on his facebook page, and nothing said to him in person.  He was avoided in every way possible.  It is too painful to be around him.  He is not the meticulous, kind, thoughtful person he used to be.  Today he has a swollen face (from the alcohol), an unkempt beard, purple splotches around his eye from the last time he fell, his clothes are filthy with cigarette burns on them, his fingers are stained brown, and his dirty jagged nails are a full centimeter longer than they ought to be.  His hair has not been washed in months so he wears a stocking hat at all times.  He does not always know if it is day or night, and can be as demanding as a toddler when he wants fast food or more alcohol.

An alcoholic like my husband will die if he keeps drinking and will die if he suddenly stops drinking.  If he were to choose to stop it would need to be in a detox setting.  His body cannot tolerate the absence of alcohol.  If I did not buy the alcohol for him, he would tear apart the house looking for car keys.  Letting him drive not only gambles with my only source of transportation, but also would put other people at risk of great physical harm.  My husband could walk a few blocks to the local convenience store, but the physical exertion would probably cause him to collapse and die on the sidewalk.  It’s a no-win situation.

As I was buying him more cigarettes and vodka this weekend, I was surprised at how angry I felt.  Angry that I had to buy this stuff so he could continue to kill himself.  Angry that our children were going to be constantly reminded this weekend that their dad was different.    Angry that he causes them so much pain.  Angry that they have to avoid him to alleviate the pain they feel.  My heart aches when I know my kids are hurting so I waffled between anger and sadness all weekend.

The only conversation I had with my husband over the weekend was asking him if he was coming to family dinner at his brother’s house.  For two days his answer was “I don’t know”.  An hour before we needed to leave, I ask again.  This time it is a yes.  I give him nail clippers and ask him to also wash up before we leave.  I check on him half an hour later and ask him again to please wash up.  When it is time to leave, he is drinking and smoking, has not touched his nails, and has not washed up.

“Just go without me.  You never really wanted me to go anyway.”  If that were true, I wouldn’t have spent so much time checking on him and asking.  I am swamped with studying for finals.  I say nothing for words are futile at this point.  I go to family dinner without him.

The past several weeks I consciously worked at trusting God for my future, to not worry or stress over it.  As Jonathan David and Melissa Helser sing, “I’m no longer a slave to fear.  I am a child of God.”  This weekend was an eye-opener of my need to consciously let God work out the anger that seemingly fills my heart.

 

Pride can be so ugly

I did check on my husband after writing that last post.  He was ready for help so I donned gloves, removed the soiled clothing, put on the clean, and got all his accumulated dirty clothes in the washer.  He is too heavy for me to lift, so he had to roll onto his hands and knees before I could even attempt to help him up.  Once on his feet he was very unsteady and started falling backwards onto me.  Before I returned to school, my everyday job involved assisting people with balance issues so I knew exactly how to keep my husband upright.  He was able to take a small step towards the chair.  His judgement was way off and he began to sit before he was properly in place.  The last thing I wanted was for him to be on the floor again, so I maneuvered my leg to allow his bottom to slide from my hip to the chair.  Simple body mechanics based on years of practice and training enabled him to end up safely on the chair.

My husband then started yelling at me, claiming that I was pushing him and trying to make him fall.  That bothered me so much that I started yelling back at him.  I was so mad that he thought I would intentionally try to shove him onto the floor and that I didn’t know what I was doing.  I slammed his belt onto the tv tray beside him.  I felt like hitting him.  He wouldn’t let me speak, he wasn’t listening to any explanation.  He just kept yelling over and over again, “Go away!  Leave me alone!”  With a dramatic door slam I did just that.

A few minutes later I calmed down and decided to give him some food since he had not eaten in nearly a day.  I set it in front of him and asked him (nicely and without yelling) why he was so intent on killing himself with alcohol.  He has no sense of time, so he believes that the bottle of vodka he opened this morning was actually begun a couple days ago.  With the head injury and the alcohol in his system, there was no point in arguing with him.  I checked on him a few hours later and discovered he had consumed the food.

Ephesians 4:32 urges us to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving, because Christ has forgiven us.  This morning as I was reflecting on how my pride had flared up and caused me to fail miserably at living that out, I was reminded of an old hymn by Theodore Monod.

Oh, the bitter pain and sorrow
That a time could ever be,
When I proudly said to Jesus,
All of self, and none of Thee.

Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on the accursed tree,
And my wistful heart said faintly,
Some of self, and some of Thee.

Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Brought me lower while I whispered,
Less of self, and more of Thee,

Higher than the highest heaven,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last has conquered:
None of self, and all of Thee.

I want to live a life that reflects that last verse, but obviously I am not there yet.

 

Enough is Enough

This morning my husband had fallen again.  He now has an ugly bruise and gash on his head.  As he laid on the concrete floor of our basement I removed his soiled pants, washed his bottom, applied a skin barrier and got some clean pants on him.  (Thirty some years ago when we were married I never imagined that one day I would have to put diaper rash ointment on him.)  He continued to lay on the floor for another couple hours.  Then he was able to navigate the stairs with my help, and flop onto the couch.

Fast forward 8 hours and he had fallen on the concrete floor again.  He seemingly wasn’t hurt and didn’t want to get up, so I left him there.  As I dove into my homework, I honestly forgot about him.  A couple hours later, when I did remember to check on him, I found him still on the floor, but now he was ready for my help.

I gathered up everything I needed to clean him up and then he asked me how much vodka was still in the house.  He really didn’t like my answer of “There’s enough”.  He began demanding, in very colorful language, that I go buy more vodka.  I thought that I could ignore his words and begin to help him become presentable.  However, when he immediately switched from demanding to insulting, I didn’t feel so charitable anymore.

“What, are you so stupid?  Do you understand?”

I decided to not put up with it right now.  I laid his clean clothes down and walked out of the room.  The last thing I heard was him yelling at me to give him the car keys so he could drive himself to the store.  Yeah, sure.  This from a man lying on the floor, who doesn’t know what day it is, and cannot walk well.  I just had to chuckle.  I will check on him in a couple hours.

…at all times.

Oh how fickle the mind can be.  The past few days my husband started showing signs of chronic liver failure along with other serious issues.  He could barely function.  I know that his body is too far downhill for a turn-around.  I thought I was ready for his death.  I was surprised at how sad I felt, being on the verge of tears for days.   All I could do was pray that he didn’t suffer.  Pity and kindness filled my heart.

Last night all those warm, fuzzy feelings went away.  He reverted back to nasty, demanding, verbally abusive husband.  God gave me the grace to not verbally retaliate when he was insulting my character, my mom, and my entire family.  He is not in his right mind and therefore it would be silly to try to argue with him.  I did get irritated with him and just wished that he would leave me alone.

This morning it occurred to me that “a friend loves at all times”.  Do I still love my husband?  I suppose that I do based on how I felt towards him over the weekend. Do I like him?  Maybe not right now.  But, I am still concerned about him.  I guess love doesn’t always feel like cashmere against the skin.  Sometimes it is more like burlap.  Today is a burlap day.

A Heart of Compassion

A new semester is starting and for the past several days I have waffled back and forth on if I should stay enrolled.  My husband’s health took another turn for the worse.  Should I skip this semester and therefore not have to lose any school time in the event of him passing away? Is he going to need more care and I won’t have enough time to actually study?

This morning as he sat half-naked in his basement chair, he was drooling, slurring his words, and unable to comprehend some basic information.  He had fallen again and really couldn’t walk well.  I offered to help him get some clean clothes on.  He didn’t want my help.  I offered to get him a blanket which he did accept.  I brought him some tissue so he could wipe his face.  I asked if he was hurt or bleeding.  His response:

I want you to go away.  I don’t ever want to see you again.  You are a curse to me.”

I did have an appointment soon, so I left him sitting there in his filth.  I was briefly offended that he had been so nasty when I had been so nice.  It was uncalled for.  I did not deserve that.  God immediately reminded me that what I just went through was nothing compared to what Jesus went through.  I needed to still have a heart of compassion towards him. Jesus was a servant to all, and I should serve my husband.

“And so as those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, patience, and humility…”

After my appointment I came home and laundered all of his clothes that he had piled in a disgusting filthy heap. I made an extra trip to the store to buy him alcohol.  I washed the dirty dishes that he had accumulated.  I offered to make him a sandwich.  His response:

Go away.  You are so condescending.  You treat me like shit.”

That’s just fine.  Still nothing compared to what Jesus went through for me.  I did roll my eyes as I left him sitting all alone.  He is so blind.