‘The weak noise of her eyes easily files my impatience to an edge.’
More often than not I have wanted to take this ethereal blade of avidity and place it in her skull. Yet I resist. I resist because I love her. I resist because every morning these same eyes still take my breath away.
I resist because I am man.
The one thing man must do, amongst other things, is keep his sanity. This ability to think is what separates the man from the angel. Men bleed. Angels bleed. But to think, to have that murmur of morality inside your head; that’s what truly makes us human.
I’m sure that’s why my patience has come to an end. Humanity is knowing your name, knowing where you were born, your parent’s names, your favourite food, your favourite book. Knowing is an art. To take that away is, well, inhumane.
The nurse has come for Evelyn again. She has kind eyes. I like that. This nurse understands what Evelyn and I are going through. Not like those doctors, those social workers, those carers down at the home. They only told me one thing.
“It’s Alzheimer’s, John. There’s nothing more you can do. I’m sorry.”
It’s like they think I need telling that. Every day they tell me that she needs taking care of, she needs help, you need help. Try being told that you can’t take care of your own wife, the woman who shares your bed, raised your children. Try being told that you can’t help the one that’s helped you most.
If I am a castle, Evelyn is the stone in my walls. If I am a bridge, she is the rivets and bolts that stop my descent into the dark seas of inhumanity.
If I were a statue, Evelyn would be my marble, my pedestal and my sculptor.
Evelyn loved to play piano. In springtime, with the windows flung open wide, every day she would weave me delicate sonatas with her delicate fingers, and I would wear them in the delicate springtime air of the garden and I would be happy.
She no longer plays her piano. Her love is not lost, but her fingers forget their humanity far too easily.
“Evelyn,” I hear the nurse say to the woman in the bed. “Are you comfortable?”
I hear my wife’s voice come from this frail, grey creature covered in hospital blue blankets. That is not my wife.
Evelyn was beautiful before she lost her mind. She is the summer, a red-haired naiad in a dress of polka-dots, a summer in which my mind has been captive for more than sixty years. And what a joyous imprisonment it has been in the blue pools of her eyes. She still holds this beauty, the grace of a woman comfortable with her skin. Yet now, as her chains loosen, I find myself longing for that same summer freedom, if only to look upon her grace and fall for her eyes once more.
I often tried to deny the fact that my anchor, my Evelyn, was losing her mind. I hid it from myself for a long time. The children took a while to notice. The piano playing was the first to emerge from the depths, but it started to show in other places: forgotten shopping lists, names and birthdays, books and paintings. All small signs of her ever-weakening grip. I am still determined to hold on.
“John,” she calls from her bed. I turn to her and she beckons with that smile, the smile of our angelic youth.
She is still my wife, and I am overjoyed.
I read to her as often as the hospital allows me to. I have always read to her, much as she has always played her tunes. She often forgets what we are reading, the meanings of words, the places and the names, but she holds onto the important things. She always remembers that Elizabeth falls for Mr. Darcy, and they are happy, as we are. In these moments, the knife edge is dulled by the memories of a time we share, a time I beg for every day.
In this day and age, I hear the word ‘comfortable’ far too often. It is a shallow word. Every nurse and every doctor tell me that they will make her comfortable, make me comfortable, make everything just so comfortable. I do not understand how they can use the word comfortable when a woman is falling down the slippery slope of humanity and into an early grave, and all her husband can do is watch her and make sure her descent is comfortable. It makes me sick.
It will be winter soon. Evelyn always hated winter. She cannot abide being locked away by the wind and the cold and the rain, not when there is so much to do outside. This is how I know she is lost to her inhumanity. Every day my Evelyn stares out of the window, stares at the weather like she has lost hope in the sun.
It is the east, I whisper to myself as I hold her bony hands in my lap.
And Evelyn is the sun.
“Mr. Brown,” I hear the nurse say. I raise my head and smile. What else is there left to do?
“Call me if you need anything. Anything at all.”
I nod, and smile again. There is no reason for sourness in a world like this. I still hold my humanity firmly by its wrist. All I can do is hold my love, hold her and ease her passing.
Even without her mind, her eyes will bring me hope.
She still knows this. She laughs, and she smiles, and rests her head against my own.
For I am a man, as she is a woman, and we are patient with time.
Time is to think. And for this, I can only celebrate.
For we are still human.
By James Gregory