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.


APRIL 2, 2012 2:09PM

Choosing Paths

Rate: 9 Flag

I’m not a “road less travelled” kind of guy; in fact I kind of steer clear of that road, too many weeds, cracks in the pavement and just general sweat.  I’ve always been prone to find the path of least resistance.

I learned early on the power of saying, “I don’t want to do that.”  Doing “that, that way” was too hard, too much trouble.  Walking the easy road reduced the anxiety of trying something new and it reduced the chances of failure, but it eliminated parts of life that could bring joy and success.

It’s not one of my favorite personality traits; it’s something I have to be on guard against. 

It used to drive Marty a bit nuts and she did her best to call me on it each time she saw me missing out on pieces of life because I was settling, settling for the easy way, the path of least resistance.

I depended on Marty to question me, to push me to look at my chosen path and to ask, “Why are you doing that, wouldn’t it be better if….”  Every day she challenged me and insisted I look for alternatives.  It’s not hyperbole to say she really did press me to a more fulfilled life.  I miss that part of our interchange; I worry about not having her at my back, pushing me to choose a more challenging, fulfilling road.

In 2006 I took Marty to Dallas for what I felt like was the best, most intensive traumatic brain injury rehab center in our part of the world.  Then, in May, about two months after going to this facility, after a couple of miserable hospital stays, we came back to Waco to let Marty heal from the multiple pneumonias she had contracted while in Dallas.  It had been a monumentally discouraging and frightening eight weeks.

I had reached out to Great and Wise to please bring us back to Waco to heal.  God bless his soul, he did and we spent a couple of days in Providence Hospital and then went back to St. Catherine’s for some sub-acute care.  It was there, at that time, at that moment, we, I, had to decide about the rest of our life, about Marty’s future.  My penchant for the path of least resistance was tested.

I tried to come to grips with where we were in Marty’s recovery and how much more ground we could make.  I tried to remove what I wanted from the equation, hell; I tried to figure out what I wanted in the equation.  Did it make sense to continue to struggle in institutional rehab care, was there any real hope of big life-altering changes, was this as good as it would get, or would Marty be better off just going home and living her life at her own pace on her own schedule?

I struggled with the decision.   Do I fight for more time, do I fight for more work with physical therapy, with occupational therapy or do I just take what we have and go home?  Because of my history with taking the easy way out I worried that I was settling, that I was choosing the path of least resistance, that I was doing what was easy for me and not what was best for Marty.  In my mind I could hear Marty, “Is that really what you want to do?” 

When Marty broke her arm in 2010 the choice was surgery or just let it heal as I was.  Again, how, without Marty looking over my shoulder, how do I make sure any decision I make it not just following the path of least resistance, is not just what is easiest for me? 

Surgery for Marty would have been very risky but it probably afforded a bit more future mobility of her arm.  Simply doing nothing but immobilizing her arm, treating for pain and letting it heal avoided the surgical risk and avoided the trauma of surgery for Marty and everyone else.  Doing nothing, letting the bone in the arm knit together without the surgery was safer, was in most ways,  physically and emotionally easier for me in many ways. 

The question I asked myself then and still today, two years later, was it best for Marty or was it easier for me?  I struggled with my intention; I struggled with the demons from my past that too often directed me.

Now we have the tooth.  It’s not a world shaker, but Marty has a cavity in a back molar that is not a particularly healthy tooth anyway.  The wonderful thing is we have options, the hard part is, we have options.  Marty, who once would never let me take the path that was easiest, says, it doesn’t hurt, leave it alone.  The dentist begs to disagree and is full of talk of caps, crowns, bridges, implants and sinus lifts.

My job, figure out what is the best care for my wife given the circumstances left by the strokes.  Do I follow Marty’s lead and do nothing, which would certainly be easy in the short run?  Do I just say, pull the tooth, again an easy, relatively minor procedure, or do I push Marty and get work done that will require a lot out of all of us and cause Marty pain and expose her to some risks?  What is the best route and how do I ensure that this decision, like all the others, has less to do with me and more to do with what is best, safest and most beneficial to a full grown wife that can’t advocate or decide for herself?

I don’t know. 

I will do what I always do.  I will talk it and ruminate it to death; Marty has already jumped me for belaboring the tooth.  I will research the implications of the options, I will ferret out what a sinus lift really is and what the side effects are, I will talk to Great and Wise and I will do my very best to check myself to make sure what I decide has more to do with Marty than with me.

The road less travelled has never been my road; I’ve never even read the book.  The strokes have put Marty and I on a road that few have travelled; I’m still getting used to that.  I want to what’s best for Marty, not what’s easiest. 

Now if someone will just tell me what that is I can quit worrying about that part of it. 


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The bad news: You and Marty are on a road less-traveled, Marty's husband whether or not you realize it.

The good news: So is everybody else although some people are good at pretending they know where the potholes are and where they're headed.
It seems that what is best for Marty may be what is easiest. All of the research you do must show you the pros and cons and give you all you need to make a wise decision. What ever road you travel it is clearly the road of love.
rated with love
There are no easy answers but I think that if you have a pastor who you trust that it might be a good idea to run SOME of these decisions past him or her.
That's a tough one. It's a tough road. But its so obvious you do it all out of love.
The dentist begs to disagree and is full of talk of caps, crowns, bridges, implants and sinus lifts.
I swear they offer this to everyone.. They should do what;s easiest and leave it at that.
Rule #1 in Caregiving is Take Care of Yourself First. There are no other rules. You must take the road that is your best interest because only then can you have the strength needed to help. Please get rid of any guilt. Rule #1 is all you need and simple is best. Always. Much love to you both and thank you, thank you for writing. It helps us all.
I worked in Dentistry for 15 yrs. These are tough decisions for anyone. Is the molar in a position that would throw off her bite (if she had it removed)when she chews? If so it could cause jaw pain and even neck pain and the other teeth will shift. Some dentists will try filling the tooth if they can, a root canal will probably lead to a crown and a sinus lift will prepare for an implant. In Marty's position this may be too traumatic and stressful. I would get a second opinion.
Bottom line for me would be to do what is most comfortable for Marty. She and you have enough to contend with. I hope this helps. Good luck and keep us posted./r
I'm often a "least resistance" guy myself. You have my highest admiration for resisting this in yourself under these personal circumstances. Very best to you and Marty.
The fact that you research and think these decisions through show that you're not taking the easy road. Just make sure that you're part of the equation too. Good luck to you both.