What I Learn From Marty


Waco, Texas,
March 30
I am the chief caregiver for Marty, my wife of 30+ years. In our previous lives Marty was an Educational Psychologist, I was a call center manager. Marty has had two strokes since 2005 which have caused critical physical and cognitive deficits. We are both in our mid-50's and have two adult children. I would never confuse myself with a professional writer, I do this to document our journey and as an act of self discovery. This is what I have learned over the last years, this is our life.


DECEMBER 22, 2011 6:22PM

An Absence of Bad

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I send out an annual Christmas letter.  Sorry, I know, I know, but it’s not really the narcissistic, four page, every things perfect kind of Christmas letter, we haven’t ever seen perfect.  Mine is the, “I’m going to tell you some really basic stuff about our survival that you may or may not want to know once a year” kind of Christmas letter.  Hey it’s my stamp, it’s the end of the year, I like to write this stuff and people need to know; besides it helps me review. 

In doing this annual epistle I discovered that too often I have measured our life by the absence of catastrophe; probably because so much of our last few years have been defined by Marty’s illness.  For too many years it seemed we spent an inordinate amount of our time and energy dealing with medical issues, it felt like we were always at a hospital or at a doctor’s office or waiting for the next calamity to put us in a hospital. 

A true confession, not long after we came home after Marty’s 2nd stroke I really thought everything would be great if we could limit our hospital stays to once a quarter.  Things change, things get better.

I know life should not be measured by bad events, even if you are simply celebrating the absence of them.  Life should be measured by the good times and the love you experience.  The reality is when you have been beset by constant calamities you do have to celebrate a little down time, some non-events.   By all accounts, by both the absence of the bad and the presence of the good, as I reflect and foist that reflection on others, we have experienced a remarkable year.

Marty has been well, in fact, for our world, Marty has been better than well, she’s been great.  She only went to the hospital one time this year, for vertebroplasty.  It was planned, it wasn’t overnight, and it helped her back pain.  I don’t really count that as a hospital stay, that trip was just a day long tune-up.

Since coming home five years ago we have averaged visiting the emergency room at our preferred hospital enough that they know us by name, about four times a year.  We lost our frequent visitor status this year.  The only emergency room visit this year was for me.  I went early one Sunday morning because of chest pains.  I thought I was having a heart attack, it turns out I had the shingles.  For the uninitiated the shingles suck big time, for a long time.


 When I look back at the year, given Marty’s continued progress, it was a pretty calm, boring, uneventful year.  We like calm, boring and uneventful.   

Then I remember all of the good things, wonderful events that happened this year.  My daughter, our daughter, our baby girl got married in January.  It seems forever since I fretted about the whole event and how Marty would handle the inevitable tension and pressure of the wedding.  It seems such a long time since we sat at the front of our church and saw Erin marry Lyle and I discovered all of my worrying was for naught as Marty was perfect, as was the wedding.  I discovered I could actually help with a wedding and with the proper amount of courage Marty and I could still dance.


Then there are the babies, the grand-babies, two brand spanking new perfectly beautiful baby girls; Lily Jewell and Emma Elizabeth.  They are the perfect bookends to the auburn haired first grandchild, Noah.


There is nothing in the world better than seeing your children have children, seeing your children in the role of parents, seeing your children being good parents, seeing your children suffer as you did with crying babies.  Love is wonderful, parental retribution is sublime. 

Over these last months we have gone to  birthdays, different celebrations and events.  We have enjoyed time with our family and have been more active and more integrated into the world around us than we have been in five years.  Marty’s overall health made it possible, my ability to break out of our routines helped.  

Marty and I decided, together, that we wanted to live, we wanted to participate, that we wanted to measure our life by the good things, not just the bad things.  I don’t have the personal discipline to do that all of the time, sometimes I am overcome by the anxiety of waiting for the next shoe to drop, but I’m getting better at finding the right things to use to gauge our lives.

So, the Christmas letter; it makes some people gag, I know.  It is welcome by others who really want to know what’s happening in our lives, I personally love to read them and see the pictures.  For those of you who want a summary:  not much bad, a whole lotta good, Marty continues as does Marty’s Husband. 

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"Love is wonderful, parental retribution is sublime." How true!

May "a whole lotta good" happen to you and Marty in 2012 and beyond. Seasons' greetings and joyous holidays.

I love how you offer such hope that life goes on, it may be ever changing but it can go on and we can learn to laugh and enjoy again, just in different ways.
An absence of bad is a whole lotta good. I'm so happy you had a pretty uneventful year. Here's to many more. Happy Holidays. r
As usual, your love and your grip on reality are inspiring. Love hearing this was by and large a good year for you. Here's to an even better one in 2012!
I like Christmas letters, even the insufferable ones. Yours was very nice and those babies are adorable!!
I loved this. Your command of love, of life, of language make me smile, a huge, all encompassing smile. An absence of bad, indeed. Here's to you and Marty. My husband and I have known persistent ill health and I know the silent courage needed everyday, every moment.
And don't forget -- you and Marty danced!

This is so great. For a ten year period, Terri and I lived in hospitals and ER's. Her breast cancer, my prostate cancer, her pancreatitis that almost killed here, I broke my leg in 3 places. I had hand surgery on both hand that I would not wish of the Devil, the pain was so bad. Three Hip replacements. Countless other stuff, but this year, like you, has been great. Until today. Terry had a stress test a few weeks ago, and got a call today. Something is wrong with her heart. I hope it's just a minor thing, where a pill will keep it regulated. We almost made the year, hah!! I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas, and you never see another ER. Here's to all our health, my friends!
Thank God for "calm, boring and uneventful."
Best wishes to you and Marty this Holiday.
this was wonderful. I wouldn't mind getting a holiday letter like yours.
When you dispense with shoes, none of them drop!

I loved this, my dear barefoot friends!

Happy holidays, happy family days, happy YOU!
Love is everywhere in the midst of all it is there.
It lights the lights and holds us tight
Each night we cannot sleep without the blessing of its touch.
We know we love, we love much.

I think the end of the year holiday letters are important. I am glad you share your life. This has been a great year for you, less hospital visits and a wedding and grandchildren. That is love. Best to you both!
Calm and boring is good. My life is full of drama and heart ache. Hmmm....