Sunday, February 20, 2011

Epiphany

I read this poem today in the Writers’ Almanac and realized I now have a word for what I’ve been feeling since my husband’s heart attack last year.  Dread.
Passage
He who
took the steps
by two
now pauses
on each tread
and I
who love him so
am filled
with dread.
"Passage" by Marilyn Donnelly, from Coda. © Autumn House Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
My husband survived, and by all rights, life should have gone on as before, only better.  Yet every day I felt enclosed by some drear force.   I continued my daily schedule, went to water aerobics and dance classes, met with my writers’ group, worked in the garden, and visited friends.  Yet, all I did, saw, and said seemed muffled as if I were surrounded by a glass box.  My resolve to start or finish projects diminished.   My perseverance dwindled.  I received notice of events I would have taken part in only months before, but I couldn’t make myself attend.   I was my own small space vehicle slowing floating away from the mothership dock.  I have struggled this past year to take my life back.
I also realized today that I am not alone.  I know that my mother, who attends to my father now after his many strokes, must be feeling the same thing every day as she wakes in her room across the living room from my father’s, not knowing if he’s still here or not.  I realized that my acquaintances who have lost their husbands or wives must have lived with dread as they moved day by day with their partners on the one-way path from illness to death.   
I’m certain now that all of us have our turn at living with dread.   Just as life happens, so does death.  We know this intellectually, of course.  There’s another level of knowing, though, that comes from living with and through a situation, paying attention and questioning. 
I am hopeful that having a word for my experience will help me to re-dock.  I hope, too, that I can become more compassionate.
Words are powerful and illuminating.

3 comments:

Wanda said...

Well said. It is also a phenomenon that we call, in my business, anticipatory phobia. Following a trauma (and this most definitely is traumatic for the observing/caretaking spouse), a level of fear exists that "it" will happen again. We live with the anticipation of trauma--dread. Part of healing protocol for trauma, addresses anticipatory phobia.

That being said--I know the feeling. Never knowing in the morning whether breath still passes through the lungs of the beloved.

Martha Goudey said...

Beautifully written. I think that part of the challenge of living is to learn to overcome that dread that something "dreadful" is about to happen. My entire life my mother said, "Just when things were getting good, he died," referring to my father's death at 41 of a heart attack in his sleep. I live now with the anticipation of her death--as well as the tendency to check my hubby's breathing when he is quiet in the night. It's a delicate dance isn't it.

Nancy Slavin said...

Nice piece, Karen.