Am I world’s worst bastard?
I’m in my 60s with three daughters and four grandchildren. I married my wife 42 years ago, but shortly before our 30th anniversary, I noticed subtle changes that became progressively worse. She was diagnosed with Alzheimers, became increasingly irrational and was eventually admitted. I was devastated, and so were our daughters. Eventually she was allowed back home needing round-clock-care.
Now I have become close to one of my clients, a widow my own age. Wracked with guilt, I feel I have betrayed my wife, whom I still love. Our daughters were not happy about it, but they say life is short and if I’m happy, so be it.
I’m not looking for absolution (although I did consider talking to our pastor, then rejected the thought), but an unbiased outside opinion. Am I the world’s worst bastard or a victim of circumstances?
Bernard, by e-mail.
I cannot imagine anyone judging you as ‘the world’s worst bastard.’ I believe a lot of people will agree with your daughter – and they’re the only ones with the right to judge this sad case. You stoutly maintain that you still love the wife with whom you shared a long married life, but the painful fact is this – that wife is no longer with you.
One of the cruellest aspects of dementia is that those who love the sufferer are left bereaved – condemned to witness what is, afterall, a form of living death.
You do not say whether your wife still recognises you, but since it sounds as if the progress of the disease was fast, I fear it may be unlikely.
Devastated, you kept going, and then met another lonely person who could offer mental and physical comfort — which (I have no doubt) is as important for her as it is for you. It is a good thing that you have found solace with your lady friend, the wife you loved will never come home to you and you need to seek help on how to contend with the dementia that plagues your marriage.
This will give you some ideas about ways to enjoy the times you have with her. Your visits are important for both of you (and for your daughters), and nothing should get in their way. As for the rest of the time, when something is lost, the universe often supplies something to be found, and bring joy.