Out of the Frying Pan . . .

October 5, 2010 at 10:14 pm (By Amba)

I was just going through my usual “Who am I without J?” blackout phase, as described in the (originally handwritten) journal entry below, when I learned that he’s coming home tomorrow evening.

He’s even more helpless and crazier than usual from having been sick (I got a preview of coming attractions when I tried to help him brush his teeth, and at the rinse phase he sucked water into his mouth, sloshed it around, and then either forgot how or just decided not to spit, and held the toothpastey water in his mouth until he aspirated it into his windpipe, while I screamed and tore out my hair), and he’s starting to have prickly nerve pain, though he says it’s not bad pain.  (He has a rather high standard for pain.)  But he will be finished with his antiviral medication and not yet certified uncontagious enough to go to the hospice facility for interim care, so home he comes.  I imagine them all saying to each other behind their hands, She can do it.  Let her do it. Of course, they’ll help.  Some.

Being home will be much better for him, of course.  He’ll regain his strength and the remaining tatters of his sanity faster.  I’ve been fretting about the deleterious effects on him of merely lying around in the hospital, or in the hospice facility, so this is good.  But there are a few things I hoped to use this time get done that I haven’t had a chance to do (get the van inspected; apply for Social Security).  Finding my footing alone isn’t even one of them.

But if I had typed up the following this morning I would have wryly titled it, “It’s All About Me.”  I won’t have time for such vapors now.  Having to think about J keeps me from having to think about myself, which is both good and bad.  From the beginning of our bond, through all its permutations, I have always felt gallingly monopolized when J was around, and dreadfully diminished when he wasn’t.  In our sum I suppose we are both more than we would be as parts — a condition hardly unique to us.  But it is exaggerated in our case, because Jacques is naturally great, “the last of the titans” — it’s nothing he does, it’s just what he is — and I bridge him to the world of regular-sized people, and in the process just a little of it rubs off.  But I can’t generate that life force by myself.  It isn’t something you can learn.  It’s something you are.  Or aren’t.  When he’s gone, I’m going to turn back into a pumpkin with a thud.

If I ever write a book about him, about us, the epigraph is going to be from Goethe:  “Confronted with persons of superior merit, the only way of saving one’s ego is by love.”

*   *   *   *   *

10/5 Had one of those attacks of existential whatchamacallit this morning, that I have always had, or passed through, in J’s absence, when I feel like a planet that’s lost its sun.  [Hmm, I typed “son.”] Even the cats seemed to be shunning me.  I thought, “I’m a parasite.  I’m a pilotfish.  I’m a disconnected firehose.”  I felt as if I had no life force, no gift for life of my own.  The paradox is that I depend not only on orbiting and serving J to give me location and purpose; I also depend on resisting him.  Fighting off his pressure to keep clear and diamond-dense a small space of my own, a sense of myself as not-him, but brought into definition by him, has become my most comfortable way to exist.  He lifts me out of mediocrity and sets boundaries that keep me from diffusing.  As often used to happen, I got into playing “my” music and dancing last night, and while it resonated plangently with disused parts of myself — twanged emotional strings going back before I met him, to my adolescence — it quickly came to seem cloying and shallow.

I’m going to have to get over this.  I fear how diminished I’ll be when I fall back to just being myself.  (Sense of an atom’s quantum energy levels.)  He’s somehow been a challenge big enough for me.  I was ambitious to be great-souled? and fear that, on my own, I’m just not?  Stretched on his capacious frame . . .

When I think of writing about him it’s out of the need to incorporate him, just a little bit of his natural grandeur and largesse.  But when it’s gone, it cannot be recreated.  That frightens me — my inadequacy to reconstitute his magnanimity (great-souledness), even a little bit.  He is irreplaceable in so many people’s lives.

He is a star in the sense of gravitation.  He bends space, making it comfortable and inviting — hospitable — to roll around in, around him.  What I’m feeling and anticipating is the loss of gravitation.

*  *  *

Should I post that online?  Nah.

[Famous last words]


  1. chickelit said,

    I am reading these posts about J and I am hearing them–but I’m struggling to comment. I’m imbued (clouded?) by my own wife’s words of what it meant to become a mother against her own volition. Against volition not in the sense of complicity, but rather in the sense of being caught up in what she didn’t expect at first, but what became unavoidable as being something good. And in the end (so far) this has empowered her. We should all be so lucky. Bless you Amba.

  2. Ron said,

    It’s simply amazing that you can see enjoying what you enjoy as ‘cloying and shallow’! Nothing could be further from the truth. It is part of the soil that formed Planet Amba (‘Plamba’?) after all.

    I see an enormous amount of energy that will find any outlet it can here. The self definition will come gradually, over time, whether you like it or not, so wouldn’t it be better to own that? For You, for J, indeed for all of us out here? Don’t think you don’t make an impression! As for myself, I have a pile of contradictory thoughts to these…but., I’ll pass on these things not on the blog.

  3. amba12 said,

    dear chicken, I so relate to that. It’s not the first or only comparison of this situation to motherhood, either. The points of similarity are many (and often graphic). The main difference is that one charge is growing up and the other is growing down. Also, one is bigger.

    I think about how hard women of my generation tried to avoid being “stuck with” and defined by such work and to grab our share of the more glorified cultural work, even at the sacrifice (literally) of much. And now, on the listserv I joined for spouse caregivers of people with Lewy body dementia, I see men caring for their wives at home with devastating fidelity. And this disease hits women less often but much harder then men. At least three of the women I hear about are or were paranoid, sleepless, raving for days, completely delusional, and frighteningly physically powerful for their size.

    All the crap about “roles,” it’s just crap.

  4. amba12 said,

    Ron, it is cloying and shallow, objectively speaking, because my clock stopped, or my road forked, or whatever, when I was an adolescent in arrested development in my mid- twenties. One’s own tastes and emotions and fantasies as a shy, neurotic 20-something-year-old are bound to seem poignant but untried, profound but largely unreal, to the 60-something-year-old

  5. wj said,

    Confronted with persons of superior merit…

    Somehow, I’m having serious trouble seeing this applied to you. Sorry, but I ain’t buying it.

  6. realpc said,

    Fascinating Amba. And this leads me to think something utterly politically incorrect. We women have that tendency to orbit a man. I know that a part of me does it. In my case, the man has kept me hanging for about 45 years, so we never got married. But we are in love, which means I have been sucked into his orbit, and being separated would feel like siamese twins being cut apart with no anesthetic. For me, anyway. I don’t think he is superior to me in any real way, only in sheer magnetic force. And that is what some men have, but not so many women have.

    That is how we evolved, whether the feminists can accept it or not.

  7. amba12 said,

    I think maybe men are orbiting women too. It’s more like twin stars.

  8. realpc said,

    Of course, I know men orbit women also. But it’s like a bee flying around a flower. And of course men also get devastated by love — we know that from songs. But the power men have over women is different than the power women have over men, in some way, if they are an alpha male, that is. I think your husband is an alpha male, and that’s why your soul became part of his, instead of vice versa.

  9. amba12 said,

    I wonder why Ruth is giving me a “Mary” vibe. Maybe it’s all the advice and assumptions without really knowing very much about the situation.

  10. amba12 said,

    Mary studied law (don’t know if she practices it). Hope Ruth does not practice medicine by looking at photographs.

  11. A said,

    Back when I was spending time with horses, I always noticed how exposure to horse dander made me look and feel better. My hair, my skin, my mood. Undoubtedly some people are in that healing zone with cats.

  12. realpc said,

    “I know it would kill you to choose between your pets and him, but what if eventually it comes to that?”

    Where humanitarianism crosses the fine line over to inhumanitarianism.

  13. realpc said,

    What I was trying to say, in case anyone wants to know, is that telling Amba she might have to get rid of her cats is just cruelty disguised as helpful concern.

    Keep your cats Amba!!

  14. amba12 said,

    What do you expect from Ruth[less]mary!

    The cats are staying.

  15. amba12 said,

    You’re easy to figure out, because of the palpable vicious vibe you give off beneath appearances, and because of the incredible ignorance from which you assume and pontificate. Many things that *you’ve never heard of* can and do happen. You know absolutely nothing about us, or about the progression of Lewy body dementia and what kinds of things kill its sufferers, or about the impact shingles can have on a vulnerable older person, or for that matter about the positive vs. negative influences of pets. You are worm-eaten by envy and trying to figure out how to destroy people you believe have been more fortunate than you. Get a life. I will delete your comments, but only after leaving them on display here for all to see.

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