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.


Editor’s Pick
APRIL 26, 2012 5:53PM

Fading Memories

Rate: 29 Flag

Memories erode and fade with time.  Like water and wind over the earth, time shapes memories and removes pieces of what once was.  Memories change and fade with time and become nothing but blurry pictures of what was. 

Marty’s first stroke was seven years ago and slowly, but noticeably, the memories of what was are changing and fading and I’m afraid we are left with what is.  I hate it, losing those memories, losing that tenuous hold to what was and I struggle to keep those precious memories of what and who Marty was before the stroke. 

Memories of Marty walking, talking, arguing, teaching, and pontificating live and in color are slowly but surely being sacrificed to time and are being replaced by the woman I know today, the miraculous woman irrevocably changed by the strokes.

I want to always be able to picture her in my mind, leaning over the kitchen counter, chin in her right hand, listening intently to the inane story I was telling.  I want to be able to remember the sound of her voice as she talks about something equally inane.  I don’t want to ever forget the feeling of her standing pressed against me, her arms wrapped around my neck and shoulders, her breathe falling on my neck. 

But it’s going away, those visual and tactile memories, replaced by what we are today.  I feel powerless to stop the erosion.

Since the strokes I have always worried about people who didn’t know Marty before, how they would never know who she was or what she was.  Now, with time, I worry that I will forget.  I want to remember, I want those memories, that depth of understanding of who Marty was to stay clear, to stay crisp, to stay fresh, but time is wearing me down; time is making what we were before, stale.

There are so many things I need to remember ---

I want to remember sitting on the front porch of a rented house on 6th street in Lubbock Texas with Marty.  It was 3 a.m. and Marty and I had just split a bottle of Montezuma’s Tequila, a particularly noxious but cheap tequila.  She had brought the bottle and insisted we share it after coming over the previous weekend and finding me drinking tequila with another female friend (really, just friends).  I didn’t know at the time but she was a bit jealous.  I remember the night; I remember how cool the concrete porch felt against my cheek when I laid my swimming head to rest on the porch.

I remember when Marty and I jumped into swimming pool, fully clothed one fall night.  We were walking home with friends and just happened by the pool at a random apartment building.  We looked at each other and without saying a word jumped in the pool, fully clothed.  It was cold, we were wet and we walked home, we were starting to really become one.

I remember sitting on a worn out rickety bridge in an old burned out ghost town of a tourist stop outside of Lubbock called Rimfire Village.  We sat there one Sunday evening with a friend and watched the sun disappear as storm clouds pierced with lightening rolled across the vast open expanse of the west Texas prairie.  It’s not as clear as it was, but the memory of sitting with this young woman I was starting to love still affects me today.

I remember meeting Marty’s father for the first time with her holding my moist hand to reassure me.  I remember going to parties, talking at dinner, having babies, moving, new jobs, old jobs, new arguments and old loves.  It’s all there, our whole life together before the strokes, but the time, the age, the pressure of life between then and now has started to cloud important details.

I want to remember her old laugh that’s deep and rich and not cut off because of the strokes, her smile that’s not crooked from the brain damage, her sharp wit and humor that hasn’t been dulled by the disease, her walk that hasn’t been eliminated by the paralysis, the independence that hasn’t been swept away, the arguments, the embraces, the kisses, the smells, the confidence she could give me with her words and her smile.  I want to remember and embrace all of those things that made her uniquely Marty, that made us who we are.

I don’t want those memories to go away or to be compromised, and they are.  I can’t remember them well enough, the memories aren’t sharp they are faded and ragged, the seven years since the stroke are slowly taking them away and it scares me.

Marty is still here, she is still with us, I still love her very much, and she is still the most amazing woman I know.  The strokes have created a very different person.  While I honor who Marty is today, I mourn the loss of who she was and I don’t want to ever forget who and what she was to me and to others.  Seven years doesn’t seem that long ago, but it is time and time takes away. 

I want to remember.

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My heart goes out to you, MH. I don't know how to ease your pain, except to say I understand what it feels like to watch a loved one change, and in my mom's case, fade away.
oh this piece broke my heart. I feel your longing. and your pain and loss. and hers. what happened to Marty is a fear of mine, to have a stroke or another major catastrophic event that takes away something essential from me in these later years of my life. these years when even walking from one room to another sometimes is a painful chore because of arthritis. I DON"T WANT to grow older. I don't want to forget. I don't want to lose another piece of me. but I will. and you will. we all do. it's part of our passing through this life, this beautiful, sad, exquisite life that is too short..
just to be sure you get your rating because for this piece, all I can do is thank you and rate.
Memories, how priceless they are that we don't think about them till times comes....rated!
I too find the memories fading...and yet when I least suspect it one will wash over me and I laugh, or cry...basically feel it. That seems all we can do against the sands of time. Just know you are not alone...Marty wants to remember too.

The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I don't quite know what to say, dear L.

As my heart aches for you and for Marty, your heart aches at least a thousand times more.

All I can do is hold you close in thought and prayer ... and know that God holds you closer.
Very beautiful and touching.
Beautifully communicated, so hard to do, so thoughtful and sensitive to who Marty was without taking away who she is now.
If I were Marty I would surely want your memories to be of all the wonderful times, I am not affected by illness yet I want my husband to remember me, young vital and in love. It's a universal longing.
I like to think they are all there, the memories, maybe not instantly retrievable, but safe, and oh so real. Thanks for sharing yours.
Time Time Time. I'm so glad you write. Thank you!!
Excellent writing! Even though my circumstances are different than yours, I can relate to the fading memories. (I think we all can.) You mourn the loss of Marty, the way she used to be. I know this sounds corny, but I miss my grown children's childhoods. I enjoy them as adults, but miss them as kids as well. As a parent, you might understand what I'm talking about.
The abundant beauty and overflowing love in this post are emotionally overwhelming. And that is a feeling from a humble outsider looking in. I cannot even begin to fathom the depth of these feelings between the both of you. But your eloquent, sensitive words bring me so close to it. Thank you for sharing this. Rated with admiration.
Reaching for tissue. I don't know what to say...other than "I love this piece."
I think you still have them. They're just taking the back seat for a little while. Lovely piece.
Very touching. Blessings to both of you in your journey.
Beautiful. You are really going through [and Marty too] a human, living experience; one that not everybody will experience. rated.
Marty and I have something in common. As I have begun my treatment for breast cancer, I realize how essential my husband is in everything. We did not choose health problems, but Marty and I certainly chose husbands well.
This is so beautiful. My mother lived for four years after her devastating. It was a brutal four years that left her unable to walk, talk or write. For a long time, that was the way I remembered her, but now much less so. Now I remember her when she was a force of nature, a woman who commanded any room she walked into.
Oh, MH, I so understand your feelings. Having lost one or two people with whom I shared a close connection and a history, I know that time is a threat to those memories. But you will remember as you keep on recording like this. And I know that time, again, allows us to hold unto only the best, as the rest sift through our weakening recollections. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
I realize I don't know your name. You are a part of Marty, an extension of both your lives through your good health and your memories.
Would you prefer us not to know?
No words from me. I'll just read your again.
And again....
...and again.
Beautifully stated. You won't forget.