MW has taken to having a stuffed toy dog lying on the bed next to her. This is a substitute of sorts, for a real dog. She’s wanted a dog for a while but I’m uncertain. Not because I don’t like dogs or anything, quite the opposite. It’s just that I know I’ll be the one that would have to look after a dog. Do the walking, cleaning up, training, etc. I feel selfish writing that. I know that MW loves dogs and has had one before. But that was long before MS. She’s still confined to bed for long periods because of this bastard pressure sore, so everything is sort of on hold anyway until she’s able to be got up and seated in her chair for longer periods. I know I shouldn’t try and psychoanalyse her from a distance but when I see her with this toy dog, I can’t help myself. I’ve known MW for 14 years now and this is new to me. Does she see a dog as a surrogate child? We don’t have a family, and I’d understand how a pet would act as that surrogate, no matter how clichéd that seems. Or does she feel starved of affection? Is it something I’m doing wrong? I try to ensure that I do show her affection because, after all, she is still my wife. Her having MS is not her doing and I do love her, even if our relationship stretches the definition of a typical husband/wife marriage to its very limit.
There are things I don’t even put in the blog because they’re too personal but I will say that this disease has robbed us of almost every ingredient that you’d expect to find in a marriage. I’d expand on what’s been lost and how I feel about it but that’s not what this post is about. Maybe I’m not ready to write about some things just yet.
My point is that seeing MW with this dog is a shock. She’s never been one for large amounts of cuddly toys. When we met, she even described herself as being a bit of a cold fish. This latest example of change in her is the complete antithesis of the woman I met and married. It feels like she’s undergoing (or undergone) an infantilisation of sorts. I feel more and more like a parent than I am a husband. Yet, my immediate response to seeing this change is guilt. Am I responsible for her behaviour through the way I’ve acted and reacted to all the challenges her MS has presented? Could I/should I have acted differently as a carer? Would this change have happened anyway as a result of the increased lesions on her brain? She already shows symptoms of altered cognitive and memory states, including hallucinations, so it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility. I don’t treat her like a child. One or two of the carers do occasionally and it grates on me because the MW I know, the MW I married, would have *hated* that. However, she seems to tolerate it – no, more than tolerate, she seems to enjoy it. I don’t say anything because, if she does enjoy it, who am I to jump in and berate them for it? I keep expecting the old MW to pull them up on it. But she doesn’t.
I know I get wound up by the worry of all the things that have happened to her. I can’t help but show that by my reactions to things like her choking, or when she sleeps so heavily, it takes some effort to wake her up. I keep saying this but I am doing my best. I haven’t got a manual to follow or anything. I keep telling myself that the dog is a child surrogate. But only because that stops me from going into a spiral of self reprimand alternated with guilt. It’s a valid enough reason and I can buy it. Hell, I can even share the feeling.
None of this is made any easier by the news I received over the last week of two MS sufferers I knew – rather, one I spoke to on Twitter, the other I knew of through his wife and carer. Both of them passed away during the latter end of 2014, one on Christmas Eve – both of them shocks. I’ve not told MW about them because of her being around the same age as they were. She’s already concerned about her age and what MS has done to her by this age. I don’t want to add to that by giving her this news. Besides, she didn’t really know them, only through things I’d said. Meanwhile, I see any change in her as being something else to mourn. I try harder than anything to keep it hidden but I can’t help but be scared of what will happen next. Am I looking at a finite amount of time with her? Because I have no idea how to start to cope with it if it’s true. And I don’t think a dog would make it easier.