(I visited a very fine site last night called inteuri, and her post Burdens on My Mind at Night reminded me of the day I went with my sister-in-law to visit her husband.)
Her hair is straighter than when it was black, as though life's straining pull has drained the curl. It has left instead long strands of winter white, which she had combed straight and smoothed into a roll in the back. A muted silver clasp held it all. Her body is trim and her step was brisk as she led us into the building. Her seventy-five year old face is creased with few lines; only around her mouth are crisscrosses of fine wrinkles.
The terror showed in her eyes.
He was mumbling when we entered. She smiled, bent over his chair, and spoke. "We have company." He turned vacant eyes our way, and thus began our two-hour visit.
She scurried about, clucking over him, tucking his clothes here and there. She brought a warm cloth to wash his hands–large, elegant ones. She washed him as though he were a baby; he obediently lifted his hands as she ministered to him. From time to time, she went into the bathroom, continuing to carry on the conversation as she brought lotion and towel, and rubbed him dry.
She stepped back to look at him, smiling as she spoke. "Now you look good."
He continued his mumbled conversation, speaking at a wall, or to the floor, occasionally lifting his smeared eyes to look into her bright ones.
We walked down the hall, our decent two hours over. We pressed the button and the code 1611* that would open the door. The Alzheimer unit was behind us.
At home, we spoke at length with her–of the strain, the fatigue, money problems, her own health, and the sense of it all. Finally, she broke into tears. "He is my husband, and I love him. We have been married 48 years, you know."