Monday, December 30, 2013

Suddenly, we had nothing to say...

Went to IHOP last night for dinner.  It's close to the house, we were running errands, breakfast sounded good!  (Side note:  IHOP pancakes are NOT Perkins pancakes!  What's in those Perkins cakes!?)

I tend to yap yap yap about nothing and everything.  Luther's quiet, he listens.  Lately, he's been even more quiet.  I started talking to him about the disease, his feelings about it, I wondered if he thought about what was next.  He said he didn't know.  That was about all he said.  I made a conscious effort to stop yapping. Usually Luther gets in a yap or two but this time, all he said was he didn't know.  There was this uncomfortable moment of silence.

A few minutes went by.  I asked him if he was ok.  He said he just didn't have anything to say.

I'm not sure what to think about that.  At dinner, I asked him a few questions about it but realized he didn't appreciate the badgering.  (Yapping and badgering.  Fine qualities in a partner...)  So I stopped, just let it be.

But I'm just not sure what to think.


I have this Caregiver's Guide from the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  223 pages long.  I couldn't get past page 21 without crying.

I flipped through the pages.  There are lots of pictures of people in wheelchairs, people with vents (the equipment needed to help breathe), pictures of people being cared for.  That got me to thinking:  I haven't really seen, up close, what ALS looks like.

I see it in Luther every day, to some extent.  According to the Guide, he's in the early stages of ALS:

- Muscles are weak, soft, twitchy
- Significant muscle loss located in one region
- Milder symptoms spreading to other regions
- Experiencing fatigue, poor balance, slurred words, weak grip
- Needs assistance with physical tasks

I stopped reading after the late stage section:

- Most voluntary muscles are paralyzed
- Ability to move air in and out of lungs is severely compromised
- Severely limited mobility.  Unable to care for own needs
- Speech no longer possible
- Eating / drinking by mouth not possible
- Assisted ventilation - either non-invasive or a tracheostomy
- Feeding tube
- Possible catheter

I understand this is a process.  A 'journey' the Guide calls it.  They even included a poem about it, which, frankly, right now, I could've done without.  A coupon for a free drink would've been better.

As Luther goes through the stages, I understand - as I sit here right now thinking in a Spock-like, logical way - that we become more accepting of the progression.  He doesn't go from weak muscles to being paralyzed in a day; over time, we'll be more "used" to what's occurring.

I understand that with each loss of function, there comes non Spock-like emotions.  Sadness, anger, depression.  Almost like the five stages of grief.  Grieving the loss of mobility, of eating, of sleeping comfortably, of intimacy.  The thing is, each loss doesn't come at the same time and it's re-grieving each time. And --- we're still in the early stages of the illness.  Luther still has lots to lose.

The challenge will be to see what we gain amidst all this loss.  (Insert poem here...)  All the things we take for granted, even now -- he still walks, drives, works.  What can I give to Luther to mimize the loss?  More love?  More intimacy?  Less yapping?  More understanding?  I don't know.  All of the above, I suppose. And more.

Last night, I know he wanted nothing more than for me to be with him.  Cuddle up in bed and fall asleep next to him.  I couldn't do it.  As I type this, I think geez Lynn - what a complete bitch.  But last night, I felt that wall of Spock-ness coming up.  I didn't want to be close to him.  I couldn't (or wouldn't) - at that moment - see past my sense of loss.  I fell asleep on the couch.

This morning, as I helped him get ready for work, I took extra time to rub his back, to hug him and tell him I love him.  I wanted nothing more than for him to stay home an extra hour so I could give him back what I couldn't give him last night.

Maybe that's the insight I gained today??  That old cliche of not taking any time for granted.  I can't take back last night.  I need to find a way to take a few bricks out of the wall when I'm feeling distant..

We're going to our first support group meeting in a couple weeks.  I think that first time will be hard.  It's the visual that will be shocking:  the pictures affected me.  How will it feel to see people in various stages of ALS?  It will be difficult to see where Luther's headed and yet, it's good to see it now and be prepared.

Time to go read past page 21.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

All is quiet on the Fridley front...

Tonight, not so scared.  Just one of those days you get up, go to work, do stuff because you have to do stuff whether or not someone's sick.  I think that's most days - you just go.  Do.  Figure it out.

I was breathing easier for a couple weeks because the disease - which had taken hold of him so quickly - seemed to slow down.  We were settling in to a routine.

Some of this is because Luther doesn't tell me stuff.  He is generally eternally optimistic and I think he thinks he doesn't want to worry me.  We've had the conversation that this isn't really the time to not worry me... I need to know what's going on.  So some of this "settling in" was because I didn't know he was feeling some weirdness in his chest/lungs, his right leg was more troublesome and his right hand had become even more wasted.  I hate to say I hadn't really noticed... but I had not.

Some of this is because the degeneration wasn't happening as fast as it had.  Luther is still working, driving, he's independent when I'm not here.  So we have this routine:  I get up when he does (I work random hours and get to sleep in sometimes), I get his breakfast ready and make his lunch.  If I'm getting home later than him, I try to have dinner ready for him.  He gets himself dressed; sometimes I help if it's too challenging.  The last thing I do before he leaves is help him get on his coat.

I thought this was ok.  I could handle this life.

Until I realized it doesn't work like that.  I've heard this is how it goes:  you settle in to a momentary routine and then something happens and you readjust.  This past week was my first adjustment!  It's why I got scared -- each day brings another adjustment.  Sometimes really small:  I leave a glass of water by his bed now for when he wakes up coughing.  Sometimes it's bigger:  I helped him brush his teeth for the very first time.

Today was just another day - nothing major happened, I worked, he rested at home, we ate dinner.  A good day.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Momentary Lapse of Reason (Suddenly, I'm Afraid of Everything)

What the heck?

Can't sleep.  Can't rally.  Withdrawing.  Feeling scared.  Afraid of the future, of wheelchairs, of decisions: do I stop working?  Power of attorney.  Remembering to make a dinner that he can actually eat.  Will we have to move?  Do we get that damned Life Alert (help!  I've fallen and I can't get up!) or a baby monitor or walkie talkies so if he chokes or falls or gets hurt when I'm in another room, I will know.

I know I know I know I should focus on positive, on what we have, what I can do.  And I will.  I'm just having a moment.

One of many, I'm sure.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

His side of the story

12/2/2013 12:58:00 PM: 

I like to write and find that I'm generally better with the written word than speaking. I'm dealing with a very serious illness and trying my best to cope. 

I was diagnosed with ALS (Louis Gehrig's disease) almost two weeks ago. The disease is terminal with no cure and only one FDA approved drug that might add a few months to your life. 

I'm losing the use of my hands and arms and it's starting to move into my right leg. I suspect that I only have a few more months of mobility left before I'm confined to a wheelchair. 

What is my life going to be like? Your mind usually stays sharp and all of your desires and urges are still active you just can't move to act on them. 

I get depressed and frustrated and have some emotional lability. I'm lucky that I'm with an amazing woman and we are working through these issues.

11/4/2013 1:09:02 PM: 

I don't know how to express how I feel. 

I'm not in physical pain but I hurt. My body doesn't feel like my body anymore. I sleep yet I don't feel rested. 

I go about my daily routines without the zest I used to feel. I feel distant from everything and everyone. 

We had a nice weekend planned but only parts of it actually happened. We missed out on our relaxing part of Saturday. 

I feel somewhat alone as I begin my journey with this newly diagnosed disease. 

I know that I'm not the only one affected and my deterioration impacts us both. 

I know that the load you are carrying is burdensome. 

I can't do the things I want to do and that is truly frustrating. I'm fighting with a monster and right now the monster has the upper hand. 

I'm afraid this is a fight that I can't win but I hope that once in a while I can get the upper hand. 

I suspect that I'll never be the man I was but hope the man I am will be enough. 

Oven mitts, coughing and the art of knowing when to shut up

Oven mitts

oops - coughing.  Gotta go - see what's up...


We can't find gloves/mittens to fit.  More precisely, we can't find something to cover his hands that he can get his hands in to.  Fingered gloves are just no good - his hands are kind of claw-like so putting individual fingers is too tough.

Mittens seemed like the next solution - no fingers!  Of all the mittens we looked at, the wrist part is tight and he can't get his hands in them.

It's like fourteen below zero right now and he needs something.  Oven mitts seemed like the next best solution!  Roomy, thick - just slide your hands in and you're set.

Unfortunately, the lobster claw oven mitt - the only oven mitt I own - was not appealing.  Come on!! Hipster ALS guy wearing lobster claw oven mitts as mittens!!  He was not amused.

I gave him a towel to put around the steering wheel as Plan B.

Plan C was the kind of booties dogs wear on their feet.  A girlfriend's mom made her dog these fleecey boots you just slide on each paw and wrap the velcro around the ankle.  Modifying that to my human guy's hands, I thought no fingers, no tight wrist part, I'll just wrap the velcro around his wrist and instant warm!

I'm not quite the crafty girl so I put my mom on the job.  She's super awesome at sewing and creating stuff out of practically nothing.  MacGyver with a needle and thread.  We'll see what happens but in the meantime:

Plan D = these wool slippers my mom knits.  From oven mitts to dog booties to slippers as mittens.  She brought them over and I know the guy was reluctant to wear them.  It pisses me off to some extent because you have to do what you have to do, right?  Here are your choices:  frostbite at 14 below or wear the damn slippers on your hands.  Plus,. really, who's going to see you?  No one.  We just got the slippers tonight, so we'll see if he has a moment to think it over...


Luther has this ungodly cough.   It has annoyed me to no end, especially prior to the ALS diagnoses because it's caused by smoking.  I figured that it's worse now because of winter:  walking out in the cold seems to aggravate it.  Plus the dryness inside - it's miserable.

The last several nights, he starts coughing around midnight and it doesn't end for an hour or so. It's not consistent - it's random but it keeps him awake.

So tonight I googled "ALS and coughing."   Man.  Here's what I learned :

Especially after eating, persons with ALS may cough for a long time, due to food particles or saliva that is stuck in the throat. This is uncomfortable for persons with ALS and for those around them but the far greater and more serious problem is the depletion of available energy and strength that leaves the person fatigued and vulnerable.

As I was reading this info, he was coughing.  Usually, I let him keep coughing, figure it out, eventually fall asleep.  After I read this, I realized I need to step up my caretaker role.  It didn't occur to me that coughing was part of the energy management stuff.  That this would leave him tired and worn out.  I went upstairs to see what he needed.  Of course, he says, "nothing."  Got him water, got him some congestion medication, hugged him for a few minutes and put him back to bed.  No coughing in the last 1/2 hour.

The Art of Knowing When to Shut Up

All of the above ties in to what happened tonight.  Oven mitts, slippers as mittens, when a cough is more than a cough... I get annoyed, I get all gets wrapped up together in to this 'what I learned' moment...

It's Christmas Eve and we spent time with about 25 family members.  As soon as we got there, he was eating.  My mom was trying to chat with him and he was ignoring her.  I did the old eye roll and asked, "are you listening?"  His reply:  I'm eating and I can't do any more than that right now.  My eyes quickly unrolled...

After being there about an hour or so, my nephew - 13 - walked up to Luther and said, is anything wrong with you?  You look really sick.  Luther said he was tired and then my nephew quickly said, I'm sorry if I made you feel bad.  Talk about a moment!  My heart tugged in 100 different ways.

I put my caregiver hat back on and decided we needed to leave.  My brother-in-law asked if he could start the car for us and Luther said no.  My sister jumped up and got my coat and then Luther's and I could tell Luther was a little irritated.

On the drive home, I was giving Luther a hard time for not accepting help.  Hey!  If brother-in-law wants to start the car - yay!  Let's let him!  If my mom wants to give you slippers to put on your hands as gloves, right on!  Warm hands!   If my sister wants to help put on your jacket - what's the big deal?  I asked him why he wasn't talking and seemed to be ignoring people who wanted to talk to him.

I type this with tears in my eyes because it's so hard for me to put myself in his orthopedic shoes.  Eating takes all his energy.  All of it.  He can't have a conversation while he eats because he can't do both.  I learned tonight that noise level zaps his energy.  25 people in a room is a big 'ole zapfest.

I also realized that what I take for granted as help from friends/family is hard for him to accept  because it means accepting he can't do it anymore.  What I see as one less thing I have to worry about, he sees as acknowledgement that the disease has taken one more thing away from him.  Can't eat.  Can't zip up his jeans.  Can't lift a bowl.  He wants to hang on to everything he CAN do because he can.

I'm his energy manager.  His caretaker.  I need to keep my mouth shut, sit back and listen to him.  How do I walk that tightrope between making him feel "normal" - allowing him to do what he can, even if it is a struggle?  How do I take it out of his claw hands and say it's now in my hands without taking away his manly stuff?  He's wired to take care of me.

It's hard for him to ask me to unscrew the top off the milk.  W'eve now settled in to this routine where I just take it off in the morning before he gets up.  f I give him a granola bar in his lunch, I make sure I just cut off one end so he doesn't have to monkey around with peeling it open.  Little stuff you don't think of until he realizes he can't do it anymore.

Each day makes me more aware how important it is to take a step back and really listen to what he's telling me, really watch how he's doing and figure out a way to help him without making him feel less than.  The disease is doing a good enough job of that without me taking away even more.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Energy Management

This disease - ALS - is all about managing your energy.  Think of it like this:  if you, as an able bodied person, went to the gym at 5 this morning and worked our hard for 3 hours and then went to work and stood the whole time you worked, then rode your bike home, cleaned the house, cooked dinner, did laundry and finally at 10 pm, sat down to watch the news before bed... if you did this, your muscles, your brain would be pretty darn tired.

We met with consultants, doctors, therapists at the U of M two weeks ago and everyone talked about conserving and managing the guy's energy output.  Make decisions on what is valuable to you:  is it more important to get your own self dressed this morning or be up for taking your girlfriend out later that night :)

Yesterday, we spent the whole day together, which is pretty unusual for us.  I work retail and have random, crazy hours.  He has the traditional Mon - Fri job 8 - 4.  Synching up our schedules is tough, especially on the weekends.

The muscle degeneration seems to have slowed - at least outwardly, to me.  Life has stabilized somewhat and feels 'normal'.  We chose to have a normal day yesterday.  The kind of days we used to take for granted.  Monkey around at home, leave for a late brunch around 1.  Walk down Grand Ave, hold hands, people watch, shop.  We ran a few more errands, went to 'our' nail place and got mani's and pedi's.  Ran a few more errands and got home around 7.  6 hours of out and about.

We had plans for today - just more stuff around the house.  My dad called to do something.  The guy is downstairs, in his man cave and I think he's sleeping.  Earlier, we were sitting together here in the living room and he'd close his eyes but say he wasn't sleeping.   I told him to go downstairs, hang out and we'd figure something out for later.

I figure, let him rest.  Conserve his energy for the upcoming week, the holidays.  We're still hanging out together.  I'll do the stuff around the house while he sleeps and we'll spend time together later.

The new normal.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


It's a delicate issue, right?  I don't want to spill the details and I'm sure no one wants to hear 'em.  And yet, sex is important.  Not only from a purely logistical point of view - I mean, if you lose your muscles, how do you HAVE sex?  Always on the bottom?? Geez.  I call unfair!!  (I kid, a little...)  But also from the point of view as a care taker.  I just wrote how much I love Luther but when I put on my caretaker hat, sometimes it's hard to jump in to romance girlfriend mode.

We were at Snuffy's Malt Shop last night, having this sex discussion over burgers and, of course, malts.  Last week, Luther lost three pounds without changing anything about the way he eats.  So the dietitian said EAT.  Eat a lot.  Keep up your weight.  (For my part, this is probably a whole 'nother blog post at another time....)  So Snuffy's seemed appropriate.

The table behind us was having a discussion about math!  The table next to us was on a date.  We were talking about having sex with a disability.  Those are the surreal times where you realize life just moves along no matter what your situation is.

The thing about ALS is that you do become paralyzed.  However, many times being paralyzed also means a loss of your senses, too and you don't feel anything.  In the case of ALS, you still feel stuff.  If a mosquito lands on your arm, you'll feel the itch but you can't itch it. 

This is a great description from the blog linked above by Tom Ohlson who has ALS:

In ALS, the motor neurons die, which in turn causes the muscles to waste away. For the most part, your senses, cognitive abilities, bowel, bladder, and sexual functions all remain intact, but the rest of your body wastes away until you are pretty much a complete vegetable. 

As an example, you can smell the food near you, see and hear the fly buzzing around the food, feel the fly when he lands on you, and even taste the little bastard when he flies into your gaping, drooling mouth. Because you still have all of your mental faculties, you are really pissed that you can’t do anything about that damned fly. 

To add to your frustration, you’re also very horny. The disease hasn’t affected your sexual desire or function, but because you now have the mobility of a potted plant, you can’t do anything about it. Even if someone took mercy on your condition, you are probably no longer in the mood because you can’t get the taste of that cursed fly out of your mouth!

So last night at Snuffy's, disabled sex talk.  It felt weird and good and awkward but necessary.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I love Luther

I love my boyfriend a ton.  When we first got together, I had doubts.  Then again, I have doubts about everything.  My spirit animal is chicken little.  The sky is always about to fall even on a sunny day.

Which is why I love Luther.  He is calm.  Zen.  Unshakeable.  Even now, in the face of this ugly terminal illness, he's funny, loving, horny and still calm.  I have fits of rage and sadness and complete fright and I wonder how we'll ever make out again with this thing taking him away from me and he puts the weight of all that on his ever-degenerating shoulders, allowing me to vomit out the negativity.

He's like my superman.  That's not really right.  He never changes from mild-mannered computer geek to a superhero.  He's consistent.  He's mild-mannered in the most excellent superhero way.

When I met him, I was hoping for a cave-man, drag me by the hair, boss me around kind of a guy.  I thought I needed someone who'd make me do stuff because I wasn't getting stuff done.  I realized, while this is a hot image, his mellow attitude centers me.

At times, I rail against the zen.  I try to create a little drama.  I think my past relationships have been filled with drama and uncertainty.  Now, with Luther, things are for sure.  He's here.  When I call from work to tell him I'm on my way home, his reply is always "I'll be here!"

He has his moments, sure.  Like when I decide at 10 on a Sunday night to rearrange the living room furniture. He lets me do my thing and then flees to the basement man cave where I'm sure he's wondering what the fuck?  But he took that in stride.  I couldn't finish the chaotic rearranging.  He let it go on another day and then asked if I needed help.  He didn't yell at me for the mess or give me the disapproving dad eyes or actually say what the fuck?  Instead, he helped me move a chair in to the exact right spot, sat down in it and said he liked the new look.

In the face of knowing I'll be a caretaker for someone I've known less than two years, I get pissed off.  I think, why me?  I've waited a million years to find someone to spend my twilight years and now he's going to die.  My turn to say what the fuck?

But I look at Luther and he has the best sparkly blue eyes and for god's sake, they're still all twinkly and happy and he's always smiling, especially when I'm having a fit over the fact I tried to rearrange furniture as a way to avoid cleaning the house or thinking about his terminal illness -- he's putting his arms around me, letting me rest my head on his chest when he's the one with this illness.

Luther is a really, really good man and I am a lucky, lucky girl.

Monday, December 16, 2013


Home for the week, burning off vacation before the year end.  Nothing great planned like a trip to Vegas or Mexico.  Well, wait.  Great things planned like cleaning the  house!  Not the regular cleaning but doing the stuff I've been putting off forever.  And now, with the guy's ALS stuff going on, there's a sense of urgency to getting these things checked off the list.

He can't lift his arms beyond waist high.  3 months ago, he could lift chest high.  Now it's waist high.  Try it. Keep your elbows at your hips and try to lift your hands no higher than your waist.  Imagine getting dressed. Eating.  Reaching for jelly at the grocery store on the high shelf.  Brushing teeth.  It doesn't work out too well.

My vacation plan = rearranging to make his life easier.  I have tupperware and big bowls on a low shelf. Plates, bowls, glasses on high shelves.  Isn't that sort of the way we do it?   Those will be switched so he can reach the stuff we use most often.   Rearrange the closet and make his clothes lower.  I have to go to the hardware store and get key rings - those metal circles - and put them on his zippers.  Gripping zippers is tough and I think if he hooks his finger in one of the rings and pulls, life could be a little easier.

It's these little things we take for granted that make things so difficult.  Trying to think of new ways to make life less frustrating.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Fuckity fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck it all

My boyfriend is going to die.

I'm going to watch him die.

He'll become paralyzed.

I will watch as he freezes.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Sitting alone on a Friday night

The guy is out.  I worked late and came home to an empty house.  I'm glad he's out - it means he's enjoying time with friends.  Distracted from the terminally ill elephant in the room.

It's weird, this life we've weaved together.  I've been single and haven't lived with anyone since my divorced in 2000.  Living alone for 12 years is a long time.  Sure, I've had sleep overs and have spent consecutive nights with people!!  But I've never meshed my life with someone else's.  I've done what I want, when I want.

Now I have to think of someone else.  That sounds like a shitty thing to say but it's been true.  No kids, I don't have any plants.  I have a cat.  I've looked out for me.  And my self-sufficient cat.  This isn't to say I'm a selfish person.  While I can be a loner at times, I'm a good friend.  A good sister.  A good daughter.

Now I have to think of someone else multiplied by a million.  What a crazy thing.

We saw a host of doctors and therapists yesterday.  It was overwhelming but great; it was awesome to see how interconnected everyone on the staff is.  The things we have to do.  At times I can't even get a load of laundry from the washer to the dryer.  How can I live up to the task of this disease?  I guess you just do it.

Alone on a Friday night - thoughts swirling around.   Time for bed.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

can't won't don't shouldn't -- negative, contracting, closing down

I haven't written anything because I am trying hard not to feel anything.  Writing makes things real.  I'm not interested in too much reality right now.

Surface, floating on the surface is good.  Skimming.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Doing the limbo

We went to Jimmy Buffet last night.  A normal night out.  Some things were difficult:  it's hard for him to turn the keys in the ignition, maneuvering the stairs, up and down our seats, leaving a little early to avoid the crowd.  All in all though, fun to go out.

Since there is no cure for ALS, no treatment, it's a weird waiting game.  What's the next thing to happen? The next muscle to go?  Will he choke?  Fall down the stairs?  Fall down at work?  Stop being able to talk? Until the next loss, we just go on.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Irony in vitamins

My man bought these vitamins,which first off just proves his optimism that he's taking vitamins!  And second, the subliminal message....

Monday, December 2, 2013

Bucket list #1

The first thing on his bucket list?

Build a gingerbread house.

This is a good man.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My heart cracked

My boyfriend, Luther, is awesome.   Smart, goofy, mellow, patient bordering on saintly.  Plus he really digs me which is a huge bonus.

We haven't known each other long in the scheme of things:  two years this March.  We met online.  An internet love story.

I am your typical Minnesotan.  If someone says, "hey!  It's a nice day today!"  a Minnesotan's response is:  "you betcha, but didn't you hear it's going to snow?"   We can never let things just *BE*.  We can't savor the now, the present, a moment of happiness because right around the corner is something that forces us to buck up or hunker down.  We're a hearty lot... always pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, shaking it off and putting one foot in front of the other.

Luther, on the other hand, is a typical southern boy.  A good 'ole southern boy.  Check him out!  He's Colonel Sanders good lookin' cousin!  General Sherman.  He should be sipping bourbon on a porch someplace warm.  Nothing phases him.  He is somewhat amused by my chicken little, sky is falling neuroses.  He waits patiently by the door as I scurry about looking for my missing shoe, my wallet, my lipstick.

At times, this disparity between mind-sets infuriates me.  I've mistaken his zen cool for apathy.  I've begged him to be more emotional, more communicative, more open.  Then I have to take a step back and think, really?  Do I want to be in a relationship with someone like me??  Nightmare.  We'd never get anywhere on time.

I can't say we're a yin/yang thing.  That implies some kind of awesome interconnected spiritual couple.  I'm a handful.  He's really quiet.  It's hard work meeting each other in the middle.

Dealing with this ALS diagnoses has put a spot light on our differences in the way we view things.  He's been even more quiet.  I can't even describe his attitude because there isn't one.  Avoidance?  Denial?  Is this a stage of grief?  Grieving his mobility, his future, his life?

We haven't really talked about any of this.  I've brought up a few things:  traveling, bucket lists, when he can't move, how do I pay his bills?  Last night, I asked him what he needed from me.  His reply:  He needs me to touch him more.

My heart cracked and I felt a little light shining through the cracks... I realized in that moment I love him and I will take myself out of this morose, stuck place in order to make the rest of his life full of affection and happiness and as much joy as possible.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


I'm a little worried.  I feel nothing.  Sadness mostly.  I'm not angry or freaked out.  Maybe that comes later?

Selfish, maybe.  I feel selfish for having these thoughts about me rather than him.

We had a brief conversation last night:  this hasn't really hit him, either.

I keep thinking there's going to be this moment, this revelation of clarity.  We'll gather our wits, get a list of things to do, suddenly things will be in focus.  Somehow, I don't think it works like that.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Today is Thanksgiving.  It will be the first time we're with extended family since the news "broke."

One of the things I want to set as a precedent is making other people feel comfortable around us.  I'm not totally sure how to accomplish this.  Right now, the guy looks fine.  No wheelchair.  Sometimes a cane.  He can talk, breathe - at first glance, he looks healthy.  I suppose I don't want him (or me, I guess) to be treated different.  But things are different.  So how does that look from the outside?

My one and only Thanksgiving duty is to make the green bean hotdish and my mom said she'd do it this holiday.  I felt happy it was one less thing to worry about today; the gesture was sweet.  But I also felt a little weird since I want life to move along normally. Or at least as normal as possible.

This wasn't meant to be a diatribe on the new normal.  I was just thinking I'm a little nervous about hanging out with family.  It's not them - they're kind, supportive and frankly, once the initial "how you doing" chatter is done, Thanksgiving will proceed in the usual way:  drinks, games, food.

Today I'm going to focus on positive.  I've been trying to do that the past few days but it's amazing what the physical component of sadness is.  I don't even realize it until this oppressive elephant is standing on my chest.  Yesterday, I went about my day and in the middle of the day I just stopped functioning.  It was weird. I had to sit down and just... sit.   I work in retail.  We never sit.  It was a busy day yesterday.  But the buzz in the store couldn't keep me going.

Ok.  I keep rambling off my "what I"m thankful for" topic.  I have to go - 6:43 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning.  My sister is picking me up and we're walking at the Mall of America in the Walk for Hunger walkathon!  We've been doing this for the last 5 or 6 years.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I'm stuck.  Tired.  Stuck.

My best guess is I'm navigating through the five stages of grief:

denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance

 and I'm in denial right now.  

I can't wrap my head around the fact the guy in my life is terminally ill and will suffer a pretty awful life as he dies.  I can't wrap my head around the fact I'll be in caretaker mode.  I AM in caretaker mode right now and it's going to get more intense.  It makes me feel incredibly, incredibly guilty that I even think like this.  

I go to work, I get so tired, I look at customers and think:  I can't even talk to you about this right now.  I want to go home, pull the covers over my head and sleep.

I've always, always been able to rally at work - been able to leave personal stuff behind and focus on work. I can't.  I am drained within hours.  I want to cry.  I feel that pressure behind my eyes.  My throat closes up. I'm a robot.  Well... not really.  A sad robot.

The thing is, in the front of my head, my robot logic part of me knows I'm not the one dying.  The logical part of me says I have to rally - I HAVE TO RALLY - and live.  He's not dead now.  As a matter of fact, he's up, walking, talking, breathing on his own.  Each new day is the best he'll be and I need to grab on to that and hold it, hold him, hold on to what we have right now.  Get unstuck.

I get it.  I really do.  Life's going to move ahead and I have to navigate through all this new territory.  I'm scared I won't be able to live up to what the future brings... but I will.  I just have to figure out how to lift this cloud of sadness, this weight of grief.  If it can't be lifted then at the very least, figure out how to live with it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fear and Loathing in Fridley

I'm scared of everything.

We got the official you're going to die from ALS diagnoses a week ago.

Many months ago, when we first heard about ALS as a possibility, we spent a couple days in disbelief.  My guy couldn't go home after work.  We went out and talked about death and plans and stayed up crying until all hours.

Everyone told us to stop it -- stop googling info, stop scaring ourselves.  When the guy told the doctor at Mayo it felt like this weirdness was spreading from his arms in to his right leg, her actual response was:  is this a google diagnoses?

So we did, we stopped second guessing, we stopped talking about it, we stopped thinking about paralyzation, feeding tubes, death.  We held on to hope that this would be an awful disease but not terminal.

Now we know it's terminal.

I can't see beyond this moment.  Right now.  I'm scared that he'll tell me he can't walk today.  That he can't swallow.  I'm scared when I hear him cough, he'll start choking and I won't know how to help him.  That he's going to fall down in the shower and I won't be there to get him up.  That he's going to start to die before my very eyes.

It makes me afraid to drive, afraid to work, afraid to make small talk with friends.

What do I do now?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Floating on the surface

I never let anyone in.  Ever.  In to my home, my life.  I like it that way.  On the surface, I have a good circle of friends, I have a great family.  I like surface.  Shiny, floating, the sun reflects off the surface.  It's nice. Easy.  You skim the surface -- maybe dip your toes in but never going too far to see what's underneath.

I let my boyfriend in.  Rather, he sort of kicked my door down and moved in.  One day we were dating and the next, he moved in.  That was March of 2012.

We were having our usual new couple issues along with my awkward letting someone love me issues.  I wasn't sure if he was "The One" -- I didn't feel crazy love for him.  Which led me to believe this time, it was different.  He made me feel safe.  That was a new feeling.

Do things happen for a reason?  Do people come in to your life for a reason?  I think about this often.  I've never had kids, I haven't been in a long term, live with me relationship for many many years.  Now here I am, here we are facing this illness.  If he weren't living with me, who would be taking care of him?  Is this my role now?  Is this why he's here?

I could ask these questions forever.  It is what it is.  He's here.

I feel guilt.  Scared.  Shut down.

Guilt because we've together less than two years and I think this sucks.  This happens to couples who've been together for a life time.  We never worked out those usual new couple issues and they're lurking beneath the surface.  I'm still pissed off about a few things we never got to resolve and now, he's dying.  Guilt because I wonder why this is happening to me.  I finally, finally let someone in after so many years of being alone, of being unloved, of not allowing myself to be hurt and this is what happens.  Guilt because I'm not dying so I shouldn't feel so selfish.

Scared because well, you know.  ALS.

Shut down because I can't even think of what's next.  I can't allow myself yet to see the future.

I want to be strong, I will eventually be strong.  For now, I'm closing my eyes.  I'm up north, at my parent's place.  Another safe place...  It's a hot summer day.  I'm on a raft in the water.  The sun is warm on my skin, I hear the waves lapping, the wind in the trees, voices far away.  Floating on the surface.  Time stands still.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Falling down

The first time he slipped and fell - well, not really a fall but a slide - in the shower, we were in a hotel room on Veteran's Day for a romantic Monday night.  I know - Monday and romance don't seem to go together.  But you take what you can get.  It was a free stay with a free dinner (he's a veteran), so what the heck?

He planned on sitting on the edge of the tub to wash his hair and instead, slid down the shiny slippery ceramic side.  In the other room getting ready, I heard a bunch of squeegee type noises along with flopping coming from the bathroom.  No cry for help but it didn't sound right.  

Water was rushing over him and he was flat on his back.  There was a safety handlebar but he wasn't strong enough to lift himself up.  It was slippery pig time... I wrapped my arms around him and tried to pull him up but he was wet, slick, soapy.  It took some doing but we got him back up to the side and we finished the shower.  This was not sexy time shower.  This was functional, get 'r done shower.

My boyfriend was just diagnosed with ALS.  Lou Gehrig's disease.  This is from the ALS Association:

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.

Note the death part.  The totally paralyzed part.  This is scary shit.

Tonight was another small fall in the shower.  He didn't take the tumble, the shower head did but it was out of his reach.  I was upstairs and heard this weird ghostly cry.  I thought it was the tv at first.  I heard it a couple more times and realized it was him.  

He was standing in the shower, water everywhere.  The shower head is way up high and he can only lift his arms about middle of chest high.  He had some device to stick on the side of the shower to hold the shower head but it unstuck and fell off and now the shower head was spinning around uncontrollably.  

He sat down on his new shower bench and I washed his hair, his armpits, his boy parts, his legs.  Rinsed him and then dried him off.  Helped him put on his pj's.  

Falling.  Free falling.  I fall for you.  Falling in love.  Doesn't it sound artful?  Poetic?  I think of a leaf, falling gently to the ground, the air underneath, spinning it round and round.   My life has been turned upside down and I feel like that leaf - I'm spinning around.  Turning slowly, insanely slow.  When will I hit the ground?

And yet, this falling is far from pretty.  It's ugly.  Random.  Unfair.  It's a failing, stumbling fall.  A fall from grace.  From normal.  

I've fallen and I have to get up.