I feel very anxious today, more anxious than I have been since I found out that my uncle has terminal cancer. He has been in a rehabilitation center for a month to work on strengthening his muscles and coordination. He was supposed to come home today.
I visited him for four days in the center. It was very strange to be there and brought back memories of visiting my granddad in a nursing home in the late 1970s. Uncle Steve looked well, and he was eating well. His mind is still very sharp. I appreciate that.
I still have to repeat many things because he’s hard of hearing and his short term memory is not the same as it used to be, but this can be expected from someone who is 93 years old. I wonder what it will be like for him to return home. His girlfriend of 15 years will continue to take care of him. I don’t know why it makes me anxious that he will be returning home.
I guess it’s that we’ll try to keep him at home for as long as we can, and this relocation symbolizes for me the beginning of the end.
In the meantime, Thanksgiving came and went and I had a wonderful time with my family and my boyfriend Walter. My mother had us all over for dinner and I enjoyed playing with my niece and nephew and talking to my father, brother and sister-in-law. This branch of the family is doing exceedingly well. Everyone is healthy and vibrant. We’re all getting along. Four days with my boyfriend was, once again, an occasion of total bliss.
It was my first Thanksgiving without Camilla, my beagle/husky whom I lost a couple of months ago. I missed her. She was part of my nuclear family.
But still, Walter, Isabella – my German Shepherd/lab – and I cuddled on the bed, and spent many happy hours together.
Why do I feel guilty for being happy? Is it because Uncle Steve won’t be in my life for much longer? Is it because I’m afraid of his suffering? Because his life prognosis is so different from mine?
When I visited, I looked for so long into those eyes that I’ve loved for so long. He is so comforting to me. He always looked out for me, and we’ve become so close since his wife, my Aunt Doris, died nearly twenty years ago.
Uncle Steve had 43 years of life before I came onto the planet. He has lived a full life. He served in the Pacific in the Army in World War II. He enjoyed a 54-year marriage. He built his own house and has lived in it since the day it was completed.
Maybe what I feel is that I might not live up to my potential – that somehow I’ll squander my resources and opportunities. I’m afraid I won’t be able to continue to hold on to my life securely and productively because I will miss his love and support. Still, at 50 years old, I feel the need to please my elders.
I think my feelings are natural and inevitable, although they are uncomfortable. I have someone to love me in a primary way, and that is Walter, a man whom I love and respect more than any other right now, including Uncle Steve. Walter – the companion and lover and partner – is taking the place of Uncle Steve, the father figure and friend. I guess that is natural, too.
I always wanted to have a life partner before I started to lose Uncle Steve, and that desire has come true.
I dread the transition, which seems to be in progress already. Yet I love the progression that my relationship with Walter is taking. After a lifetime of being independent, I’m making room for cohabitation and partnership. I’m gradually replacing one strong male figure in my life with another. My task is to love them both appropriately and strongly for as long as I can.
One relationship diminishes and will pass away, and one relationship is growing and holds the promise of lasting a very long time. It’s like a tide going out and a tide coming in, and I feel unbalanced. I will try to keep my footing. That’s all I can do.
And Uncle Steve should be back home in a couple of days, where he’ll feel comfortable surrounded by his cats and attended by his girlfriend. I will hold my breath until he’s back home. And then I’ll breathe. In and out. In and out. Steadily. That’s all I can do for myself right now.
Anne Hamilton 2012