Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The sound of silence

The volume of poems, songs, books and research on the subject of love is almost deafening.  From beginning to end, from the boundless extasy of falling in love to the seemingly bottomless pit of pain of breaking up, human beings are well prepared, at least theoretically, for anything that can happen in this process.

Unfortunately, there is one aspect of love that very few people mention but is becoming ever more common. Admittedly, it is hard to imagine and unpleasant to contemplate. Still, with life span increasing, it is something that many will experience. Specifically, I am referring to the challenge of loving people that, due to chronic pain, mental deterioration or medical problems, have changed so much that they have become completely different people. Kind, patient and generous partners turn into mean, impatient and self-centered individuals. Warm, loving homes turn into battlegrounds. Heaven turns into hell.

I have seen that various degrees of this transformation with friends and family. My father has not adjusted well to being handicapped and getting old as he approaches the age of 94. One of my friends told me how difficult it was to recognize the woman he married in his bed-ridden, grumpy wife. I do not judge these people because I cannot say how I will be if and when I reach that state.

Making that situation worse, there are no words of wisdom, magic formula, rosy outlooks or even lights at the end of the tunnel to this martyrdom. We are all left alone, trying to remember our loved one as they were once upon a time, a bit like looking an old smelly dog and remember the wild puppy of yesteryear. Memory and fortitude are the only tools in this truly final chapter of love.

In praise of the human species, the vast majority of people stand by their partners and take care of them despite their extreme emotional suffering. Caught unprepared in all ways for the challenge, they cope as best as they can in the same silence they previously encountered regarding this transformation. These people have my sympathy and admiration. As the French say, chapeau. As the Jews say, may you never know.

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