Not often do I turn to my favorite TV shows for a source of inspiration. In fact, I specifically choose my shows to escape my crazy life so there is usually little for me to relate to. Nevertheless, last week’s Gray’s Anatomy episode raised an incredibly thought provoquing situation which hit home with me.
For those who are not familiar with the show, the hospital’s Chief’s wife (well… he’s actually not Chief any more because he had some issues and this cool military guy with… I digress…) has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and she is now residing in a home. The Chief (I honestly can’t remember his name), visits her daily and is completely devoted to staying by her side through this disease even though she rarely remembers who he is. During one of his daily visits she shares with him that ‘she is in love!’. Unfortunately, it is with another man. He even catches them fooling around at one point. As you can imagine, he is not happy that the facility has allowed this to happen. After much turmoil and some changes that make his wife really unhappy, he realizes that he is no longer part of her ‘new life’. He chooses to let his wife go back to this new life and continue her romance with this other man. He chooses to let her be happy with someone else and ‘get out of the way’. (He then chooses to hook up with another doctor but that’s out of scope for this discussion…) =)
I have sometimes thought that things might be easier for our family once my mom is so far gone that my dad will be forced to put her in a home. I thought it might make things easier, especially for my dad and he would be able to go back to living his life. In watching the episode I realized how lonely and displaced the Chief was after making his decision. I was surprised to see how hard it was for him to do it, to let go and put his wife’s happiness ahead of his own ‘duty and obligation’ to be a loving and faithful husband in ‘sickness’. It hit me then that my dad is not putting his life on hold to take care of my mom. He is very much living it and that there is nothing for him to ‘go back to’ because he’s never known life without her. The time will come when he will have to make these tough choices. I hope he chooses to make her happy as well but I know it will devastating for him to put his ‘duty’ and his ‘ego’ aside. He’ll also have to balance the guilt of relief with the grief of the loss. I wonder if that time will come before she passes away.
And there it was… hitting me in the pit of my stomach like a ton of bricks. I grieved a little bit more the gradual loss of my mom.