A friend recently likened dealing with kenan’s terminal cancer diagnosis to a staircase. Each change in his condition defines the “new normal”. But before this new normal is accepted there is shock, denial, pain, and then acceptance until the next “step” comes and the process is repeated. I thought it was simple and brilliant. It really described my experience. Sometimes these steps occur without any warning. It’s more like stumbling down a staircase on roller skates then walking down one. Reaching out to family and friends is akin to grabbing the handrail to steady myself before placing my foot onto the next step.
I wasn’t expecting the most recent step. I noticed over the past couple of weeks he was having moments of confusion and occasional hallucinations. As time passed, it seemed to be happening more and more frequently. I don’t think it was as obvious to anyone else as it was to me. Not surprisingly, the performer in him pulls it together for company. But as we always want to put our best face on for guests, it’s not surprising that the gifted entertainer and generous host in him follows that maxim.
But when it’s just the two of us, I’ve found that he has one foot in my world and one in another–no easy feat for a guy with just one foot. For the most part, our days of intimate and deep conversations appear to be over. And for that, I’m profoundly sad. The loss of banter and in-jokes and non-verbal cues; subtle things that are integral to every relationship–and certainly to mine. It began a mourning process for me I hadn’t really expected. And somehow made all of this very “real” for me. The “shock and awe” of seeing this change was difficult. It was like having the emotional carpet yanked out from beneath me; another linchpin in our intimate and uniquely beautiful relationship pulled out. It was destabilizing for me. I began to get my first pangs of “unfairness”–something I hadn’t experienced before. I think up until this most recent step, I somehow felt I hadn’t lost anything yet.
I still see glimmers of “my” kenny–which delights me to no end. It also hurts, knowing he used to be someone I saw all the time–up until recently. But when I sit next to him and touch his hand or cheek, it is my kenny. When I kiss him and tell him I love him, he says it back to me as he always has. It’s still my kenny. When I watch him sleep, it’s my kenny who is sawing logs.
The “new” normal, but still “my” kenny.