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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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.

 

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.

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.

Surrender-it’s a good thing

It is finals week and life is intense.  I still don’t know what to expect from my husband.  One minute he is telling me how proud he is of me in going back to school and making good grades.  An hour later he wants to get into a verbal fight with me.  When I don’t respond, his go-to reply is, “Are you so stupid that you can’t have an opinion?”

Last night I asked him what was all over the floor, pee or water.  He said it was pee, but he cleaned it up.  “Then that is a puddle of water?” I asked.  The next few sentences out of his mouth claimed that yes it was water because he cleaned up an accident, and no, it was pee because he had an accident.  I tried to ask him which it was and his response was, “Really?  You’re that stupid?”

He will complain that nobody talks to him and that we all must hate him.  Shortly after that little rant he proceeds to insult me, our children, and my parents.  He doesn’t always remember stuff that we do tell him about.  Most of the time though, we have shut him out of our daily lives because it is too painful to keep him fully involved.

It has been a long time since my husband’s flip-flopping has increased my blood pressure or gotten my emotions out of whack.  I haven’t always been able to express why this is when my closest friends ask me how I am doing.  All I know is that there is something about the peace of God passing all understanding, if I am willing to surrender.

I have one dog who will let me totally cover her up with a blanket.  She does not freak out, probably because she knows I would never hurt her.  My other dog hates to not be able to see, even for a short time.  Which dog will I choose to be like?  I don’t know if today is the day my husband dies or if it will be next year.  I do know that God has a perfect plan for me and a path to travel.  I cannot see it, but I am ok with that.  My God has covered me with his blanket of peace, and He loves me.

“You still my soul with quiet joy…through the fire and the flood, I know that I am loved.  I can hear You singing over me…”

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.

A Second Chance?

Well my husband has mostly recovered from traumatic brain injury that occurred in November and a mini-stroke that occurred at the beginning of this year.  He is not falling down several times a day anymore.  He does not suddenly fall out of his chair, either.  He can go up and down entire stairways again.  He can speak normally.  He does not sit and stare into nothing for hours at a time.  The physical signs that told me his body was internally shutting down have disappeared.

When I talked to him about these changes and said that God is showing him mercy and kindness and giving him a chance to start living differently, his response was disbelief.  He was sober during this conversation, but still unable to see the big picture.  Why can’t he just surrender to the Creator who gives life to all?

My husband and I are so far apart in our thinking and living.  It reminds me of a song called “Just One Touch” performed by Kim Walker Smith:

“I searched the earth when all that I needed was just one touch, …my soul won’t rest ’till I find rest in You, for there is no peace, no freedom apart from You,”  This is the part that my husband just doesn’t get.  He keeps trying to find peace and freedom with alcohol and thoughts of dying.  He is content to wallow in misery.

“Here at the end of me you are my victory, I’m trading my scars for all that you are, for just one touch.”  He doesn’t see that in surrender there is true victory.  We can give all our scars, hurts, addictions, etc., to Jesus and he will give us an abundant life.

The next part of the song expresses the truth of my life:  “My joy overflows from all of Your beauty revealed to me…”  (Anatomy and Physiology class shows me every day just how awesome the human body is with its billions of cell actions and complex muscles.)  “I have been longing, I have been yearning in reckless abandon, surrendered to You, I feel Your fire, I feel You healing, all that You are is all that I’m needing,  here at the end of me, You are my victory…with arms stretched open wide come set Your heart in mine, I’m here at Your feet, Jesus I need just one touch.”

I have surrendered to the God who loves me and my heart is at peace in spite of the turmoil of my surroundings.