Our marriage wasn't perfect by any means. We fought and struggled through 15 yrs of marriage. Then one day I wanted to go to the doctor, something was wrong. I could hardly lift anything with my left arm. My left leg felt weak. The doctor ordered some tests which came up normal. But I was diagnosed with a minor stroke. He sent me to see an Occupational Therapist. There, I was evaluated and she confirmed his diagnosis. I was shocked; I was only 40. I did what I was told - therapy exercises every day. Visits to the office for therapy 3 times a week. And, almost a year I managed to gain 90% of my strength back.
Our life continued but the struggle was the same. We were separated for a time while I was in California and my husband was in Wisconsin. I was preparing a home my mother owned inj order for me to care for my grandmother who was 90 and still living home alone. He was preparing to selling our home in Wisconsin, when on the 9th of Aug 2002, the phone ran - my world was going to be turned upside down.
It was my daughter. I could hardly comprehend what she was saying. A couple of words stuck in my head. Stroke.. accident.. and dad. The rest of our conversation was a blur. Aside from getting the phone number at the hospital and a quick conversation with the EMT on hand at the scene, I still had little information of what happened.
I made some phone calls and notified my mother. She would have to make other arrangements for the care of her mother. I next called our eldest daughter to inform he and the Red Cross for help in notifying our other daughter who was in the Navy.
Then another isste took center stage. How was I going to get from California to Wisconsin? I called the airline and explained the medical emergency. The airline was gracious and did what they could for me. They confirmed the diagnosis by calling the hospital where my husband was, granting me an emergency medical fare. I then had to come up with the money for the ticket. I ended up borrowing it from my brother.
That evening was the longest night in my life. Waiting and wondering how things were going for him. Morning came and I was taken to the airport. The plane seemed to travel in slow motion. But then I suppose nothing could have gotten me there fast enough. On my last flight from Chicago to Madison the stewardess was very kind. I talked with her a bit and jokingly said ."Tell the pilot to hurry this fligh!" I found out that she she relayed my request. My flight landed 30 minutes early.
I was met at the airport by some friends. They took me immediately to the hospital. When I arrived and went upstairs for the first time I felt lost confused and scared. There laid the man of my life in a hospital bed attached to wires and tubes.
It was then that I found out what had happened. He had suffered a stroke during the night of the 8th. He woke in the morning and knew something was wrong. He struggled for 45 minutes and managed to get dressed. He knew he needed help and wasn't thinking clearly. He dragged himself out to the car and tried to drive. He was only going a block and a half but it was too far; for on his way he hit a parked car. He remembers his head hitting the windshield. He backed up and continued on to the house he was going to. There he found our 13 year old daughter and summoned help.
The second day after my arrival he asked me to help him get up. Right then I realized this was going to be a life that would be totally different than it had been. I was going to be his caregiver. During his stay in the hospital I did what I could and tried to learn how to do what I couldn't. The nurses were wonderful and helped me with everything I needed to learn.
There was a day he had company come to visit. Several of his friends did come to see him, but one in particular was going to cause problems. I knew something was up when she sat on the edge of his bed and began rubbing his chest. When she left she kissed him on the lips and said "I Love You." I didn't say anything then. I wanted to see just what was going on.
He spent 30 days in the hospital. He was then transferred to rehab and we decided to have his rehab given to him in California. So we negotiated with Am-Trak to move him as he couldn't fly. We took train back and arrived back in California to the help of his family and mine.
He spent another month in in-patient rehab. I stayed at a hotel that was nearby the hospital. I visited him daily. Rarely did I leave him during the day. I learned what I had to, to be able to care for him. One day, he asked me to leave the cell phone for him, which I obliged. Little did he know I could check to see who he called on the log. He called the woman who had visited him in the hospital. I confronted him in his room about it. He denied it of course; but he couldn't argue the fact of what she had done in the hospitalm nor the call. He was caught and finally admitted he had been having an affair while I was away in California.
His admittance was terrifying for me. I never expected him to do such a thing. We loved each other so much. And now my heart was broken. I called his brother and told him to come get me. For a week I stayed at his brother's, not calling him or talking to him. Then one day I called and asked how things were going. He asked me what I was going to do. I replied that I didn't quite know at that moment but I would be down to see him soon.
His brother took me back down. And we had a long conversation. I think my time away and not talking to him made him realize that he had hurt me deeply. We talked for a long time. And I told him I would not make a rash decision while I am so emotional. I would wait until I could think clearly and then make up my mind. He thanked me for being so understanding. And then asked me for the cell phone again. In front of me he called the woman and broke things off. The affair was over, but my feelings were in a whirlwind.
Figuring out how I felt was difficult while watching him try to deal with his physical and mental problem. One minute I was happy for him and the next I was down thinking about what I was going to do. I ran the gamut of emotions from completely depressed and suicidal to ecstatic at his progress. One day it dawned on me I was not going to let that woman win. This was my husband and I took a vow for better or worse. If that was the worst I could handle the rest. With that decision I went and told him I would not leave him.
We were released from rehab. He able to walk talk and work on our relationship. I was able to forgive but not forget and continue on with our life. We traveled up to my mothers's second home near the Oregon border of California and lived there. Then my caregiving really began.
I was now responsible for him in every way. I have to admit this is when I really became frightened. I questioned my own abilities. I was feeling anger and depressed over the situation he had put me in. He was feeling depressed over his stroke. The arguments flew fast and furious. This was not a good time for us. Eventually though we did learn to talk. I learned to understand his feelings by using my own experience with stroke. And he learned to understand mine. With out this ability I don't think we would have made it. We now have a much closer and stronger relationship.
His therapy continued at home and I was made a cheerleader. A position I would rather have not been in. I was never a cheerleader. I found I still didn't like the position of a "pep talk builder" and decided I would leave that to the therapist. So I did like I always did became the aggressive starter to get him to do what he should. It didn't take long before he got into the habit of doing some of his excersies.
We spent many days in and out of the hospital emergency room with all kinds of problems. If it wasn't seizures it was another problem. The emotional rollercoaster was in full force. This rollercoaster of emotions created still more problems. I packed my bags a few times and his once to get my point across. After he spent time thinking about what had happened, he realized I was right and relinquished his stand.
Finding time for me was a problem. I have to be doing something at all times. I can't just sit and watch the television all day. So I found an outlet in my genealogy. It was something that I enjoyed doing and he had no control over what I did with it. It was there just for me. This created some animosity with him. He felt I was pushing him away; yet, when if he needed something I was right there. But it was more that I was doing something. It too created arguments. But I held my ground and explained of all the things I have given up to be here; thatI was not going to give this up. He eventually understood and now I am able to research my family history all day and night if I wish.
I have found a release in making others laugh. I enjoy finding the silly in what they say. Or twisting their words to make them mean something different. It is a way to keep my mind sharp and keep me from going insane. I also have written some poems. Some I have posted on the internet and one I gave to my husband for Christmas. The rest I keep for myself. A reminder of how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.
I have found that things I thought important really aren't. All that matters is "Are you happy with yourself and your choices?" If you can answer yes to these two things the rest doesn't matter.
Today we are comfortable with our lives and are quite happy with each other. We do things we have not done in a long time, holding hands, giving a little look, or just a smile. I find that they are more enjoyable now than they were before. It may be hard for many who read this to think about staying with a man who had an affair and then he requires constant care. But I am not here to please them. I am here to please me and my husband - nothing more.