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.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

…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.

Petty Stuff

I normally have nice, fun dreams.  Lately, there have been times in my dreams that I have broken down crying.  They almost always stem from dream interactions with my husband.  In my dream I try to tell him that he always puts me down, makes me feel stupid, is very unkind.  In reality, he is not always that way.  In fact, right now, we are at a good place.  He is not overly drunk, therefore his interactions with me are nice and courteous.  He is even washing the dishes almost every day.

Washing dishes is one of those tasks that I would start, pause, and come back to later.  Sometimes my husband would get mad at me for putting the dishpan full of soapy water and dishes in the sink and leave them there.  His reason for being mad was that the sink would be blocked.  I didn’t see it as a problem because one can always lift the dishpan out of the sink.  He, on the other hand, washes dishes by putting them directly in the sink.  Then he will walk away, sometimes for hours, leaving the sink blocked.  One has to remove all the dishes and drain the water to use the sink.  (Writing it out now makes it very clear that this is all really petty stuff.)

Anyway, this morning he filled the sink up with soapy water and dishes and prepared to leave the kitchen.  Very nicely, I asked him if he remembered all the times he used to get mad at me for blocking the sink.  I wanted him to see the double standard he was living.  Of course he didn’t remember getting mad at me ever and saw no problem with the way he was washing the dishes.  Right after that, I immediately regretted even bringing it up.  Why do I need him to acknowledge my hurt?  Why should I try to punish him or push him into guilt?  Blocking the sink is such a minor thing and certainly not something to fight over.  Have I been hurt in the past?  Yes, it even shows up in my dreams.  But, that does not mean that I should try to hurt him now.  I need to forgive my husband to the same extent as I have been forgiven by God.  That certainly isn’t easy unless I focus on what I have been forgiven of.  Even so, I find that it can be a very long process.  I am not there yet.  I can be kind to him and sometimes initiate conversations.  But, for the most part, I do my best to avoid and ignore him.  Not very Christ-like.  Right now it is the best I can do.

A song by Keith and Kristyn Getty has been going through my mind.  “The grace of God has reached for me, and pulled me from the raging sea, and I am safe on this solid ground, the Lord is my salvation…”  There is no need for me to jump back into turmoil.  Forgive.  Forget.  Move on.

False Alarm

A week ago, after several more falls and injuries, my husband took a turn for the worse.  He wasn’t drinking nearly as much as usual, but the effects were so much more pronounced.  He was slurring his speech, drooling, unaware of his location or position, and hallucinating.  He spent 24 hours not being able to stand, walk, or crawl.  After that segment of time there was a day or two where he could barely sit up and take a step.  He had other physical symptoms indicating that his body was shutting down.

I made the hard decision to immediately quit my job.   It was time.  My husband looked like he needed a full-time caregiver, and that person is me.   It would not be right to have my kids be the ones to change his clothes and bathe him.

I shed lots of tears that day.  I discovered deep down that I was not ready for my husband to die.  Yes, on the surface he irritates me and I wish this whole phase of my life could be over.  But, I will miss him for who he used to be.  I will also miss the wonderful people that I have worked with over these past 9 years.

Wouldn’t you know, the day after I quit my job, my husband was back to his somewhat normal self.  He was walking, talking, and acting just the same as he was two weeks ago.  A couple of the symptoms of body shut-down went away.  He even was able to walk up a short flight of steps.  I am continually amazed at how this man’s body defies science.

He is eating better now because I am making him small meals now and then.  Partly done out of compassion.  Partly done because I am tired of him making a mess in the kitchen.  Eating soup with a fork can leave lots of debris behind.

This near brush with death hasn’t made him change his mind about his lifestyle.  If anything, he wants to do all he can to speed up the process of dying.  What a waste of all that God has given him!

Every day I still need to choose how I live.  I sing with Jesus Culture:

Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice ’cause You set me free….I am Yours.

Challenges

This morning I woke up with the phrase “whatever happens I will not be afraid…” running through my brain.  As I lay in bed, trying to pray, trying not to worry why the furnace keeps running, that portion of the song by Tenth Avenue North kept a continual loop of music in my mind.

I finally did get up to check on my husband.  He has been falling several times a week because he gets so thoroughly drunk.  I am getting quite proficient at pulling him out of doorways and dragging him across the floor.  This morning he had fallen again, but at least the door to the outside was mostly closed.  (It is 0 degrees outside.)  He had fallen in an interior doorway and I still had to drag him across the floor so he could eventually get up.  As I was sweeping up the broken glass, he decides to tell me that he is fine, his pants are clean, and there is no blood on the floor.

I know that since he is currently very drunk and naturally combative he is unable to see the mess he is in.  But, I still found myself getting mad at him.  I told him I was angry at him for throwing his life away.  I reminded him of how gifted, talented, and blessed he used to be.  It ended with me telling him that I am still willing to help him get cleaned up when he sobers up.  Then I gently slammed the door.

Which brings me to this moment.  I am starting a second college degree and am taking online classes.  Technology has never been my friend and causes me lots of frustration.  I have had to learn so much before the classes even begin.  Today will be filled with continuing to learn how to navigate in my new world and completing as many assignments that I can before they are due.  I need to work ahead so that if my husband does die, I can take a little bit of time off from my studies.

It seems like a very morbid outlook, but it is my reality.  It is a miracle of God that my husband is still living today.  He defies all medical and conventional wisdom.  The day could come that he would die from a stroke, heart attack, total liver failure, lung cancer, brain injury, or simply bleeding to death.  (He almost did that in November.)

So, as I begin my new college career, I need to remind myself that I am in God’s hands.  With his help I can do all things.  “I have this hope in the depth of my soul in the flood or the fire you’re with me and you won’t let go…”