Every day, Jim, Milly, Charlotte and Jan come to the unit to visit their spouses. In total there are 48 people on my mothers unit, a fairly even division of men and women. These four are the only living spouses out of the 48. Sons and daughters show up on holidays and the occasional weekend. I am the exception to the rule, though unlike these four, I do not go every day. We know each other well and always stop to inquire, first about each other and then, about our loved one.
Jim's wife sits quietly staring at a place upward and towards the ceiling. She has not made eye contact in over 3 years and murmurs constantly to herself . Jim sits with her by the hour, holding her close....telling her about his day and asking after hers. It is the only time she does not murmur. Milly reads the Globe aloud to her husband. Though he has not spoken in several months, his eyes never leave her face. Charlotte, accompanied by her dog "Little Bee" brings frappes and other delights to her husband, who rarely opens his eyes but smiles gently when "Little Bee" sits on his lap and licks at his chin. He was a pilot once upon a time and perhaps behind his closed lids....he soars free. Jan's husband confined to a Hospice chair lies on his side, infant like. She fusses over him and keeps up an endless chatter. His time is near, though none of us speak this out loud. She drives 80 miles round trip each day to spend 6 hours with him.
I watch them when they enter the unit. I observe how their faces light up at the first glimpse of their spouse. Their smiles reach up into their eyes and they all lean in for a kiss. Love like this is the real McCoy. There is no imposter here. There are places in our hearts that are indeed big enough and wide enough for two. They can no longer access their love for us, but we carry it for them, carry it for ourselves. Places within our heart .