Around 7 o’clock this morning I heard our dog Bosco barking. I woke up and did not hear anyone in the house and my wife wasn’t in bed which was very unusual. Around 7:30 my nurse came and told me Marge wasn’t in the house and her car was gone. She had been acting different lately but I’d been unable to figure out why. Then I realized that in the early morning, before light, my wife had left me. I guess I really can’t blame her, even though we’ve been married for 47 years, the last 14 have been a tremendous strain on her physically and mentally. She has been my primary caregiver and did ALL of my care at night, to say nothing of her responsibilities the rest of the day. Physically it has been taking a toll on her body. She has had her wrist operated on and is constantly in a high level of discomfort. Adjusting to my quadriplegia has been extremely difficult for both of us. Our intimacy was taken away from us. Even Viagra couldn’t save it. Our relationship has changed tremendously over the past 14 years. She has been my primary caregiver, my chauffeur, my cook, (breakfast in bed every morning) as well as my best friend and in addition to all of that was added the outside chores I used to do. I couldn’t blame her or anyone in a situation like this for wanting to get away. Who wouldn’t? It is only normal! Away from the constant stress and strain of taking care of another adult, away from always having to be available in every type of demanding situation, away from having all the apples taken out of your basket with very few put back in. Early on, I had encouraged her to leave me. Why should we both have our retirement years taken away from us? We had both worked so hard and for so many years so we would have a comfortable and enjoyable retirement and then this. We had talked of traveling, returning to places that we had enjoyed so much in our early years together. Now it was pretty obvious this would never happen. Her retirement years would be filled with the mundane demanding chores that would drain her physically and mentally. I had often thought when she left to run an errand or go shopping, leaving was probably easy but it was coming back that had to be tough. Someone at the rehabilitation hospital once told us 80% of husbands leave their wife in the first year of her quadriplegia while 20% of wives leave their husband in the first year.
Around 11:00am I got a phone call. It was Marge! What was going on? She told me she was at O’Hara airport in Chicago and was getting ready to board a flight for San Diego. I could hardly talk. What do you say? I knew it was very important that caregivers take care of themselves and getting away was critically important. However, in the back of my mind I was also very happy she was coming back next Thursday!