I’ve always lived by the biblical teaching of, “judge not, lest ye be judged”, but it was never more clear to me what that meant than when I traveled this journey.
From the moment I walked into the nursing home for the first time, to meet Eric’s (my husband) wife (Gaye), there were stares, prying eyes and judgments made without a single word being spoken. The attitudes of the staff (of the nursing home) quickly changed from cheerful and happy while speaking to Eric, to condescending and cold when they realized I was with him.
All they saw was a young-ish (I look young for my age so I’m sure it appeared I was even younger than the 10 year difference between Eric and I) girl with a man who was still married to a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s. What they didn’t see was that Eric was smiling and looking forward to each day since he met me as opposed to living in a world of loneliness and grief.
They had no idea that his children were the ones who wanted him to “move on” and find companionship and that his own daughter set up his profile on Match.com. They had no clue of the endless nights Eric sat in his home (the home Gaye desperately wanted because she fell in love with it) alone with no other companion other than his dogs…night after night. Faced with pictures, clothes, innumerable items still in the house that all belonged to Gaye, all as constant reminders of what she was reduced to and how unfair it all was. The staff had it in their minds that they knew what he was doing, he was abandoning his wife.
Oh contraire! Eric had been a dutiful husband. Took care of Gaye, at home, for as long as possible. When it became impossible and she had to be put into a nursing home, he spent night after night with her until she felt comfortable enough so that he could leave her there. In the beginning, Eric visited Gaye daily and brought the staff doughnuts every weekend. His visits only wained because of the heart ache of having to witness his wife’s deteriorating health.
The staff’s treatment and/or judgment of my role in all this was that I was the “other woman”. Although I had never met Gaye before this nursing home visit, I was put into their (Eric, Gaye and the rest of the family) lives as someone far more significant than the “other woman”. Being a registered nurse, I was there to aid in sharing information with Eric and his family about medical treatments as they became faced with them. I was there to help brighten Eric’s life and in turn brighten his children and grandchildren’s lives because they knew that he was, finally, going to be ok.
The greatest gift I could ever receive from sharing my journey, in the form of my book, is that people become less judgmental of families in similar situations. That we all truly think about walking in one another’s shoes before we pass judgment.
Until next time..