In Sickness and In Health
It’s been a hard day for her. Attempting to distract her with offers of hot coffee or a sweet treat do nothing to stay her overpowering desire to ‘go home’.
“No!” she declares, “It’s too hot for coffee, and my husband will be looking for me soon. I need to go home.”
After many minutes of soothing her with quiet words and promises affirming that her husband will be coming in soon to see her, she eventually begins to move into the dining room to sit down for lunch.
As she shuffles slowly down the hallway clutching her walker, I can’t help but sympathize with her. It’s a new and unfamiliar place – new neighbors, new caregivers, new surroundings, and an unaccustomed separation from her husband. It’s no wonder that she wants to go home.
Suddenly her expression changes. Her frown and dejected posture disappear as her shoulders lift and her face brightens. Tears of joy spring into her eyes as she calls out her husband’s name. Not truly expecting to see him, I peer around her to the front door, only to be pleasantly surprised. There he waits across the room from us, clinging tightly to his own walker. His kindly face turns upward in a cheering smile, and for a moment the two of them are locked in a world of their own, each basking in the warmth of the other’s glance. He speaks her name, warm and low.
“My dear, what are we to do with you?” he asks affectionately as he walks unsteadily over to us, referring to her earlier wandering and agitation.
“It’s been so long since I’ve seen you!” she replies, a tear dripping down her cheek. “May I have a kiss?”
Laughing a little, but with a slight note of pain in his voice, he responds, “Dear, I was just here yesterday. We sat there in the dining room right next to the piano and had our dinner together. ”
Met with a bewildered stare from his wife, the elderly man resignedly heaves a sigh and moves to her side. “You said you were hankering for a kiss?” he asks her. She nods her head. “Well, I think we can remedy that!” he grins, a twinkle in his eye as he leans in and kisses her gently.
Turning my head slightly to allow them their privacy, I steal glances over at them, holding this moment in my heart. In his eyes reside loving patience and care at which I can only marvel – a desire to ensure her well-being and reassure her of his love. As she turns to receive his kiss, a state of complete peace and contentment visibly falls over her.
In that split second I catch a glimpse of the young bride and groom I’ve seen only in wedding photos hung carefully on the walls of her apartment. For a moment they are transported back to the days of their beautiful youth and vigor, the times when they vowed to love each other ‘in sickness and in health…until death do us part’.
As they pull away from each other, the reality of our time re-inserts itself. All of a sudden I am aware of their heads covered in grey hair, numerous wrinkles wreathing their faces as they smile affectionately at one another, and every step wavering and unsteady. But oh the love! It shines steadfastly from their faces, evident to all.