There was a time when things were different. A time when my husband and I still spoke to each other, when my mind didn’t freeze in the middle of a sentence.
It started with the index finger of my right hand. Just a tremor, and at that point, not enough to disrupt my daily routine.
Slowly the tremor got worse, affecting first my hand, and then the whole of my right arm.
I tried to hide it. From myself, my husband, the students in my class.
I knew what it was. I knew there was a high probability in terms of developing the disease because my mother had it too. That’s not to say it’s passed genetically. There was never a test I could take that would tell me one way or the other.
Still, I sat in the doctor’s surgery beside my husband and prayed I was wrong. I wasn’t.
Dr. Robinson earnestly told me I had Parkinson’s disease and everything changed.
It didn’t happen right away. On that day I merely nodded and listened to the sounds of sympathy from a man I barely knew.
Beside me my husband was silent. We didn’t speak about the diagnosis, then or since. In fact, we don’t speak to each other very much at all.
It’s not that he isn’t supportive. In his quietly subtle way he is still the rock I can lean on. He thinks I don’t notice what he’s doing. He thinks I would reject his efforts to support me, and I don’t blame him. I’m the reason he feels that way.
I always told him it would be the end of us if I got sick. I saw what the responsibility did to my father, how his feelings changed. In the end, when he looked at my mother, he was incapable of seeing beyond the disease. He alternated between pity and resignation, before settling on resentment.
It was fear talking. I couldn’t stand it if this man, who loved me so passionately, began to lose sight of everything we meant to each other. I didn’t know how to explain the blind panic I felt. Not because I had Parkinson’s, but because I was afraid of losing him. So I stopped talking.
I think he was waiting for me to ask him to leave. He loved me too much to deny me that choice, and though he wanted to fight for us, he didn’t know how. So he stopped talking too.
Lately, I’ve experienced something called freezing, or a form of it at least. My mind stutters for a few moments, perhaps searching for a drop of dopamine to grease the gears. When this happens I can literally stop in the middle of a sentence as though someone has plucked the words from my head.
My friends make allowances, some handling it better than others. Strangers shuffle nervously in their seat, waiting for me to get it together, or perhaps someone else to intervene.
My husband doesn’t do any of those things. He voices the word I had been about to utter, as though it were his turn in the conversation. He has this clever way of timing it too, as though he knows me so well, he knows the exact moment my thoughts will reform.
When I think about it, it’s something he’s always done. He’s so in tune with me he knows what I’m thinking anyway.
I may have stopped talking, but I haven’t stopped paying attention. When he looks at me there isn’t a hint of pity. He isn’t embarrassed, or impatient with me when I’m tired or stressed and the tremors get worse. He looks at me the way he’s always looked at me. The way he always will.
Yes, things are different, but it doesn’t have to be the end. I’ve been selfish, I know that now.
It took me hours to carefully apply my make-up. My anxiety is a nervous apprehension – the best kind. He’s always had this effect on me. My body might betray me from time to time, but not in this. The fluttering in my stomach is nothing new.
Tonight I’m going to be the one to effect a change. I’m going to make up for lost time and help my husband to understand that I won’t turn him away.
Maybe I’ll fluff up my lines, or tremble a little bit more than I used to. But that’s the thing about our marriage. We never really needed words anyway.
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