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Transitioning as my heart breaks |


Transitioning as my heart breaks

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star
Transitioning as my heart breaks

Transition. I think that’s what we’re going through. My husband had a stroke three years ago. He has grown forgetful. He now sleeps on a hospital bed but placed close to what used to be our bed where I sleep. Lately he always wants to climb over the rails and out of the hospital bed. This alarms me because he could fall and break some bones. So the caregiver and I decided to turn his bed around. This way if he tries to climb out — and he always tries to climb out on his right side — he will land on the bed, not the floor. Thus we reduced his chances for more serious injuries.

But that deprived him of his view of the altar I created for us made up of my grandaunt’s Sto. Niño, my uncle’s crucifix, a statue of the Virgin and her baby that charmed me, a Mother of Perpetual Help that a lady once who gave him, another Sto Niño and a small statue of the Holy Family sent to me by fans, sentimental statues. This morning Loy, my husband, woke up at 3:30 a.m. and couldn’t sleep again. I repetitively said, “Go to sleep now,” until he finally fell asleep at 5 a.m. By then I was wide-awake and hoarse so I got up and went to my workroom.

Strangely enough, today became a fixing day. I installed new order into my workroom. Then I watered my plants and installed new order into my tiny garden. Not content with that, I worked with Andrei, our caregiver, on changing the order of the wide windowsill of our bedroom. Where once the altar was on the right, I moved it to the left so Loy can see it better while we pray (I hope) the rosary together. Once we would genuinely pray it together. Now I pray it and he listens. Occasionally he responds but now, most likely, he doesn’t feel like it because I know he’s adjusting to the changed position of our beds.

Who isn’t adjusting? Now I lie on my side of the bed to watch TV so I can fall asleep easily. He hates TV. The way his bed is now, he doesn’t see or hear it since I live on subtitles. When I’m ready to fall asleep I decide where to put my head. One night I slept right next to his bed but he put his legs out and was stepping on my hips so I moved to my side of the bed and fell asleep there, but he said he missed me. The next night I took a position perpendicular to his. Our heads were on the same level but my body stretched diagonally away from him so my legs would not hang over the bed. But that wasn’t comfortable enough for me.

Last night we barricaded the sides of his bed with pillows so he didn’t try to step on my hips. We slept peacefully together from around 10 p.m. to 3:30 a.m., when he woke me up and kept me awake until 5 a.m., when he went back to sleep, and I got up and discovered myself in a fixing frame of mind.

This transition is hard for both of us. We are both not that young anymore. Loy had a stroke during the pandemic. It made him forgetful. Sometimes he asks, “When we are going home?”

“We are home now,” I say.

“Is this your house?” he asks me.

“No, it’s your apartment,” I say. “You have lived here for 12 years. I have only lived here for five.” He gives me a lost look. He breaks my heart.

But now I know we are transitioning. He seems to get more forgetful while I am still alert. I need to go out and enjoy myself once in a while. I need to laugh once more, laugh endlessly and relentlessly, burst into uncontrollable giggles once more while I still can. I need to become closer to my relatives, hang out with them, get to know them better. I need to see new things, have some fun again, be alive again, so I can bring home some new, great ideas to Loy. So I can brighten his day as I brighten mine.

Tomorrow is Jose Rizal’s birthday. He was born on June 19, 1861. If he were alive he would have a gigantic birthday cake with enough layers to hold 162 candles. For the first time in a long time his descendants — me among them — will be laying a wreath in his Calamba home. Then my granddaughter, Maxine Cruz, a descendant of Maria and the son of Esther Azurin, a descendant of Paciano and Narcisa, will give small speeches about their great-great-great-granduncle, the national hero, Jose Rizal. Our generation — the oldest alive today — are also now passing on what we know about our hero, our granduncle, to our children and grandchildren. It must really be the time for transitioning.

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