My Dementia Diary 73 – Sex, Fishing, and Other Goodbyes

Don’t it always seem to go
that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone

Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”

As I listened to Joni sing about paving paradise, I realized I’ve recently lost two big things in my life.

Sex and fishing.

Fishing used to be my soul food, what I craved when life went sideways, dreams were slipping away, or I just needed a break from the human race. My typical fishing trip was an impetuous decision to get out of town, followed by tossing rod, clothes, and snacks into the car and heading out. I had some trusted spots and a mental list of obscure places on the map that had possibilities. I was often several miles down the road before a clear direction became obvious. Location really didn’t matter much, I just wanted to be standing alone in a stream, feeling the sun’s warmth on my face, filling my nostrils with the invigorating air of wildness, casting a fly towards some trophy fish fantasy.

One of the many blessings of our marriage is that my wife found fishing intoxicating too. I remember her excited squeals when she caught her first trout and her delighted giggles as she released it and watched it dart away. I remember looking past her at the backdrop of golden aspen leaves dancing in an azure sky, on a glorious fall day. I remember thinking this is as good as it gets.

Blindness ended such impetuous outings. In time, I found a guide who took the pair of us down a favorite river in his drift boat. It felt great to be on the water again, but I can’t pretend it was anything like before. Still, we enjoyed floating through a quiet world on a beautiful day, trying to wake fish who didn’t want to play. The tranquility was shattered when dementia struck and my wife’s mind melted down. She had to get out of the boat. Words could not calm her and the guide rowed us to shore.

We haven’t been fishing since.

Then there’s sex. We’ve been wonderful, passionate lovers, always open, always eager to please each other. With us, it just happens, a kiss, a touch, a fond embrace and love unfolds. But, recently, I noticed that, in spite of these triggers, nothing else was happening. The woman who once loved to play sexually was now a child who just wanted to be cared for. Dementia had stolen another part of the woman I love and the life we shared together.

My blindness has put such losses in perspective. I’d never expected to lose my sight and the experience was devastating. But I survived and, with the help of friends, learned to explore and appreciate all those things in life that can’t be seen. I also learned that things we treasure can disappear in an instant.

Do I miss sex? Heck yes, and I also miss my wife’s killer guacamole. But these things are not coming back so I need to be grateful for what we do have. She still loves to kiss and hug and she’s very good at it. She still makes my day on our walks when she rushes up to coo and smile at every baby we meet. She still holds my hand as we sit on our favorite bench on the beach and share the feelings of living in a beautiful world.

And fishing? Another tough goodbye, but the fly fishing rod that sat on a shelf by the door for three years waiting in vain to be taken away on another impetuous adventure is now in the hands of my new son-in-law who has a a matching passion. I expect some marvelous stories will be coming my way soon.

In case you’re a Joni Mitchell fan, here’s a link to “Big Yellow Taxi.”

tio stib

You might also enjoy: This Child Who Once Was Woman, My Dementia Diary

 

My Dementia Diary 64 – Holding Hands

we have reached a place
where holding hands
is a pleasure
beyond orgasm

we have become
an incalculable oneness

after miles
years
of laughing, loving, sharing
a life together
I reach
expect
her soft, strong, tender fingers
to entwine with mine

my heart banishes all thoughts
that one day her hand
will not be there

tio stib

You might also enjoy: The Walk to Paradise Garden, My Dementia Diary

My Dementia Diary 61 – Back to Beginnings

I’ve been loved before, been involved intimately with other women, women with good hearts who cared for me. But I couldn’t let them in. Immaturity, insecurity, ego, fear, the stress of too much or too little work, etc., etc., excuses.

Or, to put it bluntly, it took me along time to grow up.

Yes, there were the other extremes, the women I did open up to, loved big, but still we failed. They were on their own journeys and our souls could not balance on the scales of love.

And so went my life lessons in loving, from ecstasy to despair, until I finally met her, my wife. Perhaps it was love at first sight, but it took time to melt through the layers of fear we’d accumulated to protect our hearts from pain.

Or, to put it simply, we grew back to being the children of love we are

Now, each day is a new beginning.

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 9 – Adventure Buddies, My Dementia Diary

 

My Dementia Diary 60 – Her Smile

I’ve not seen it for years
but I hear it, feel it
fluttering its butterfly wings in my soul
flitting through the garden of life’s memories
flying through my dreams

her smile

what would life be
without the heartbeat of love
without this boundless joy
this radiant light
that melts the clouds of doubt
the storms of despair

away

away

her smile

how can something
so long unseen
still fill my heart with hope

I am blinded by the bliss of love

 

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 13 – This Child Who Once Was Woman, My Dementia Diary

 

Husband and Wife

in the beginning
we knew not where we were going
only
that we were going together

husband and wife

how can you know what that means
when dreams are blinding
when youth is fearless
when life is forever

we skipped down the yellow brick road
not a cloud in the sky
worries past by
lost
in our bubble of love

came curves and surprises
unexpected compromises
failures and broken words
a gathering of differences

darkening days

the same choice
again and again

husband and wife?

the same answer
again and again

husband and wife

two words now one

tio stib

You might also enjoy: Love dumb, Life Stupid, Life Journey Poems & Prose

My Dementia Diary 50 – Marathon Man

I’m better suited to marathons than sprints. My most satisfying successes have been the result of disciplined and persistent efforts focused on achieving goals over long periods of time. Yes, I’ll admit that such persistence has sometimes turned into close minded stubbornness that compelled me to continue with failed pursuits which should have been abandoned long before. Such lessons had to be learned.

From early on, I was never much of a sprinter, not one to jump into things for quick rewards. Part of this was certainly how I was brought up, believing success demands hard work and disciplined effort. I learned the value of patience and persistence. I also learned that success, or at least success as I’d defined it in the moment, was sometimes something I had no control over. More lessons.

Which brings me to now and my present life challenge, a blind man caring for his dementia stricken wife.

I seem to have been perfectly trained for this opportunity. My personality, my values, my previous life experiences have prepared me well. Yet, while I take some comfort in this knowledge, there is also the realization that this is a race where there will be no celebration at the finish line. 

This is a marathon which must be run one day at a time, satisfaction gained only upon reflection each night when I ask myself-

Did I love as best I could?

tio stib

You might also enjoy: My Dementia Diary 35 – A One Act Play, My Dementia Diary

My Dementia Diary 48 – Both Sides, Now

It has been raining in our town, a string of wet, dark, gloomy days that make it easy to stay inside, sit in the easy chair beside my wife as she colors happily, relax, and listen to life happening  around me.

Lost in this oblivion, I heard my mind say, “pay attention-

a familiar song was playing on the radio. It was Joni Mitchell singing “Both Sides, Now.”

Both Sides, Now

Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way
But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow

It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud,
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way
But now old friends they’re acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

Joni Mitchell, 1968

These words pulled me into a cosmic pinball game, emotions flashing, as my heart bounced up, down, and around through forgotten memories. Yes, I’d heard this song before, but not the way, years later,  I heard it now. 

I was left with two thoughts-

Joni Mitchell is a heckuva songwriter and musician.

I really don’t know love or life at all.

Both Sides, Now

tio stib

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