As I was getting out of bed this morning, I thought of an elderly heterosexual couple I know. He was diagnosed with cancer awhile back, and it’s sad to say but at that time I think I saw relief in her eyes. It took me by surprise, and I tried to understand… here they are a loving couple in their 80s and she is not completely devastated that her partner may be terminally ill? Maybe her relief was simply knowing now what was causing his exhaustion and other symptoms, but maybe it was something else.
Over the next few months I saw the toll his illness took…on her. She never looked so worn out as those times I would see her in the early stages of treatment. Perhaps her weariness came from accepting his illness and grieving his eventual loss, but I have come to believe something more. I believe that while his illness meant just that for him, it meant a whole lot of extra “work” for her. He has been retired for nearly two decades, but she is still the one cooking meals, doing laundry and cleaning house. If he “helps”, or did in the past, his illness is certainly restricting that contribution. Before he was ill he played a lot of golf, took long walks and spent some time visiting with friends. Now he hardly does any of those things. Now his illness is not potentially terminal, but chronic and manageable. Now she never gets a break.
I think I’ve come to understand a little bit of the relief I saw in her eyes, relief which has long since faded and is replaced by just plain tired. I think she was looking forward to a time when she could go out to eat if she wanted to, but can’t because he doesn’t like or trust meals that are not “home-cooked”. She was looking forward to a time when she could get out of bed and not “have to” make it if she so felt. She was looking forward to a time when she could do whatever she wanted to do, because there was none other dependent on her labor. I wonder if she’s happy, being able to keep working at serving him. I guess it doesn’t matter much, because after all… it’s #HFSF.
Fem Phil Corvallis