This is my second post in a series about the paradox of love. It is a little different in that it’s about a man I’ve met, and a couple in love. I’ve included two of his poems.
Let’s answer this question: What is the best hoped-for outcome of any relationship?
Even Grimm’s Fairy Tales don’t finish with the “and they lived happily ever after” fantasy. The best we can hope for is, until death do us part. Barring the end of the movie The Notebook, murder-suicide pacts, or certain accidents; someone gets left. And we are often made miserable by our loss, about being left without someone we love, or about how that happened.
I don’t know John Gorow well. We attend the same writer’s group. John’s an old timer in the group; I’m new. He agreed to allow me to publish the story he related to me, and the poems he wrote. It is a remarkable and inspirational story. His poems are wonderful.
Joan and John Gorow met in 1969, when both were recovering from divorce. Prior to their marriage in 1972, Joan told John that she had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). According to John, Joan’s health setbacks did not begin for about 28 years. Since 2000, her MS was a problem. Then came breast cancer. While treatment led to a full recovery, a Parkinson’s diagnosis soon followed, in addition to her worsening MS.
For approximately 15 years, John was Joan’s constant companion and full-time caregiver. As Joan’s health continued to deteriorate, the burden on John increased. In response to that challenge, John wrote the following beautiful, heart-wrenching poem.
by John Gorow
Time moves on
Inconvenient impairments become life altering
Legs don’t do what she wants
Hands have difficulty holding things
Normal chores are no longer normal
Cooking becomes dangerous
Washing dishes is impossible
Clothes can’t be carried to the washer while using a walker
The vacuum can’t be pushed
Self-worth begins to fade.
The one who has been cared for must now give care
She has cooked for me
It is my turn to cook for her
She washed our clothes
I will do the washing
She kept our home clean
I will try my best
It is assumed we all can dress ourselves
That is no longer true
Showering on her own can’t be done
No more going to the bathroom by herself
Memory slips – confusion arrives
What day is it?
Where are we?
I need patience
We talk, and then we laugh – I cry on the inside
Kids tell me to get help
I finally do – one day a week
Who is it harder on – her or me?
I get some freedom – she does not.
Caregiving is tough
Better than the alternative
I want her as she was
It will not happen
But then again, I do have her
(October 17, 2013)
Seven months ago, on October 22, 2016, John no longer had Joan with him. Since then, John has suffered and struggled with his pain. He wrote the following poem to directly address grief in response to the prompt: what brought you to your knees? In the fifth stanza, he directly addresses the paradox of love, vis-à-vis his grief.
by John Gorow
Who are you, grief?
Why do you pester me?
You have dropped me to my knees.
I knew I would have to deal with you,
But is it forever?
You keep lingering in my life.
I think you may be gone,
Then you grab me once again.
My laughs turn into tears.
Others have told me about you,
But you don’t behave the same with all.
I can’t determine when you will rise again.
What a paradox.
I have tried to hate you,
But without love you wouldn’t be here.
I know we will take the rest of my journey together,
So I must accept you.
That acceptance will be slow.
You should know
I will no longer dread the tears you bring me,
You will need to accept that.
You can stay with me,
But I will slowly rise from my knees.
I will move forward, but not forget.
(May 18, 2017)
I want to close this post with the same line John ended his email to me. It’s a beautiful one-line poem of five words.
“I miss her very much.”
As we look both ways and mind the gaps,
let’s not forget that some of us are suffering.
Let us love and support each other, and at all times, let us cherish those we love –
paradox or not.