Jul 8th 2008

Warren, losing a sense of time

Posted in Helen & Warren, Izzy

Izzy and Warren, a timeless bond.
Izzy and Warren, a timeless bond. I never claim to know what it in a dog’s mind, but every time I see Izzy look someone in the eye, it is almost impossible not to believe he has connected in some extraordinary way. Warren loves Izzy and is always very happy to see him. He says Izzy is the most sensitive animal he has ever seen or been near.

July 8, 2008 – I sensed from the minute I walked in to see Warren that something had changed, that another milestone in his arduous journey with grief had been reached. It had been four or five days since my last visit.
As always, Warren was at pains to ask me about me and my life, to not let his loss – Helen, his beloved wife of 60 years -  monopolize the conversation, and I have learned to persistently and eventually lead him back to it, because that is, I know, what he needs to confront, in his own way. He has a dread of being self-absorbed, of talking too much about his emotional self.
He told me he was losing a sense of time, that days and hours were melding into one another. “I used to be so conscious of time,” he said, “and now I never know what day it is.”
He is spending Wednesday getting some medical tests. He insisted on driving himself. He told me he was experiencing an increased number of physical symptoms, and I could see the pain in his knees was worse. He told me he wasn’t getting out much, that he had a lot of paperwork to do. He told me he wanted to tell Helen something a hundred times a day, and when he was doing something he wanted to share with her, when he realized she wasn’t there he often stopped doing it.
I looked at his face, and remembered my reading, and what I had learned, and I told him I thought it was time to take another step, talk it out a bit with people who had been experiencing it. He looked at me for what seemed the longest time, and then he said, “yes, I think you might be right. It might be time.” For Warren, that is as loud a cry for assistance as there will ever be.
So I called Keith Mann, the volunteer coordinator at hospice, and my friend Becky MacLachlan, who runs workshops on grief and loss, and has experienced it in her own life, and we will arrange some help. I told Warren that he was doing extraordinary well, and given the seven years of intense round-the-clock physical and emotional support that he had been providing Helen, it was a wonder he hadn’t collapsed.
But, I gently coaxed, it might be time to get a bit more help, he might be ready to do that, and if he wasn’t, he shouldn’t. But I hoped he would think about it, and then I would call hospice or someone of his choosing and he could talk it out a bit. He said he thought he might be ready. “You’ve told me, and I remember it, that it is something I should do when I’m ready,” he said. Yes, I said. That’s right. It seemed to me that he might be, that we are entering a new phase.
This is, I think, a good and healthy thing. I doubt it will ever be easy for Warren to talk much about personal things like grief, but after talking with other people who know more about this than I do, I am lead to believe it can be helpful to know that the things you are feeling are natural, even inevitable.
Warren has fought this epic personal struggle for years now, and Hercules himself would be tired from it. I felt a twinge of regret that I wasn’t more alert to it, and wondered if I had missed some signs. Impossible to know. It is my job to see those signals. I admire Warren, and I reminded myself to be careful to let his own feelings determine this question of help, not mine. I think we are both in the same place.