Susan’s been apologizing to me a lot lately.
She apologizes that I have to take care of all her physical needs — I need to help her stand up, keep her steady, make sure she eats, takes her meds, keep her clean, get her comfortable in bed, dress her, and other things.
I’ve told her dozens of times that she shouldn’t apologize for this, and I’m indescribably relieved that I really mean it. You see, one of my secret fears when I was younger was that when Susan and I got old, I’d have to take care of her physical needs–that I’d be a nurse. At the time, I pictured it as frustrating, inconvenient, and undignified.
The reality is a lot different.
Being able to take care of my wife right now means that I am doing something, and as long as I’m doing something I’m generally OK. More importantly, it means that I’m doing something for her and with her, and there’s nothing I like better.
Plus, even though we have family and friends staying with and helping Susan full-time now, I like to think that nobody else is as good at taking care of her as I am. Susan tells me that’s true, and I’m not asking her if she says that just to make me feel good.
Still, she says she’s sorry I have to take care of her. I’ve asked her if the situation were reversed, would I need to apologize to her for taking care of me? No, she says, meaning it.
Well, OK then, I say. You would take care of me if you could, and I’m taking care of you because I can. Fair’s fair.
But still, she apologizes. She says she’s sorry that I’m not getting out on rides right now. I haven’t told her (and she won’t find out from this blog, because she doesn’t read it anymore, although I often read the comments to her) that a couple times this week, I’ve left work to go on a ride and then have skipped it so I could get home a little sooner.
I’ll ride more later.
She apologizes for having to leave me. This is a much harder apology to hear, because often I do feel like I ought to be getting an apology for having my wife taken from me. I mean, how many really good marriages are out there in the world? Shouldn’t someone apologize for splitting us up?
But it’s cancer that owes me an apology, not Susan. I tell her this over and over. She didn’t invite this cancer. It attacked her — us — without provocation, and she has nothing to apologize for.
Really, this is Susan in a nutshell. Even though she’s been dealing with cancer for four years now, even though she’s walking on an artificial hip, even though she’s been robbed of her talents and pleasures, even though she can only sleep with the aid of a cocktail of powerful drugs, even though she has to be literally bolted to a table and radiated daily, even though she’s dying, she worries about and apologizes to me.