The Compassion of Dignity

There is an old man in my neighborhood whose wife has Alzheimer’s. I’ve waved at him as I’ve driven by, but I’ve never spoken to him. I’ve never seen his wife either.

He spends his entire day locked in the house with her, taking care of her needs. And every day at about 5 PM, he puts her to bed and comes out of the house and goes for a walk.

He walks for a long time.

He explained to our neighbors that he has to.

I imagine it’s his only way of escaping what has probably become a daily hell – having to take complete and utter care of the one you decided to grow old with…and knowing that she will never know or understand the sacrifice he’s given her.

I’m skating the edges of this blog post at the moment. There are things on my mind dealing with Ye Ye that I’m not sure I want to delve into right now. Needless to say, things are not going particularly well and there are so many factors at play that I hardly know where to turn or who to blame.

And indeed, it’s hard to place blame on the natural way of things that strip us of our youth and vigor and ultimately our dignity. The path to death is that of an equal opportunity humbling – what difference does it make what you were like in your 20s, 30s or 40s, when in the end you’re unable to lift your own hand to feed yourself? Where you are forced to wear diapers that you wet through every night so that you wake up coated in your own urine and feces? Where your brain functions reasonably well, but you can no longer communicate to others because your mouth and throat don’t work correctly?  Where you fall down three or four or five times a day because your legs no longer hold you up?

In many ways life has the last laugh on us, it seems – we’re forced to return to the womb of the earth as helpless as we were when we were born from it.

And all I can do is watch it happen.

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