I often tell people that I think my husband Don’s role in standing by my side during my illness is every bit as hard, if not harder, than mine.
As the parents of a young child, we don’t get a lot of “alone” time. So, when Theo spent the night at his cousins’ house a few weeks back, Don and I slept in, then went out to breakfast. Just the two of us.
That’s where I had a chance to ask him how he is doing. How he’s really doing.
“Do you really want to hear this?” he said, giving me one last opportunity to change my mind.
“Yes, I do,” I said. And I meant it. So much so that I retrieved a notebook and a pen from the bottom of my purse so I could take down what he was saying. I wasn’t sure I would be able to absorb something so emotional in one sitting. I needed to write it down.
I set down my fork, which had been clanking against my plate, scraping up the last bits of Western omelette, and listened.
“My emotions run the gamut,” he began. “It’s hard to keep them in check. My patience is really thin right now.
“All it takes is a song, like Sara McLachlan’s “Hold On,” and I lose it. What the song’s lyrics mean to me is that she is losing her significant other.
“Or something someone says. It could be as simple as a reference to the future – like a trip, or retirement with their spouse – and I feel like ripping their head off. I can feel myself going from Zero to Sixty in about half a second.
“Sometimes, I picture Theo and I splashing in the hotel pool where we’re staying because you’re on book tour. Then, a moment later, I go down that dreaded path in my mind of what my life, our life, would be like without you. And I think to myself, ‘How am I ever going to teach Theo the things he needs to know, the things that only his Mom can teach him?’
“You have a love of learning and this whole encyclopedia of oddball knowledge in that brain of yours – like all of the facts about frogs and toads you’ve picked up since Theo found that first toad in our back yard. You’re a quick study.
“I also spend a lot of time thinking about ways to keep your mind busy. Your blog; your book. I want to keep your mind from going dark, to keep you moving forward, for you to keep your happy spirit. It’s hard to be in this place where I want to lift you up when all I want to do is scream.
“When I’m in a dark spot, I think of the five years since Theo was born and ways to keep you in his mind forever. I want Theo to know not just that you loved him every single day of his life, but how much and how intensely.
“I do believe you’re going to get better because I can’t allow myself to think anything else. I’m not God, and I’m not a doctor. What I do know is that I can’t raise Theo without you. I just can’t. And no one can take your place. Ever.”
Copyright 2011, Don Neilson with Amy Rauch Neilson
This post also appeared on The Pink Fund web site, where I blog every Monday, yesterday. Please visit The Pink Fund for more of my posts.