Living with the Dissonance Dragon

by Ginnie Horst Burkholder

This morning I am feeling the weather. Or is it reality that floods over me and wants to pull me under?

Last night, Nelson was, for the first time in weeks (or was it months?), awake all evening and attentive when I spoke. He even fed himself.

It precipitates a subtle change in me. I enjoy an audience for my thoughts. I speak of all the different things I have learned from the four heating contractors I have interviewed. He almost seems to be taking it in. He is here. I am not talking to space.

I give him his shower. When he is in bed he invites me to join him. He wants to talk.

He tells me that Trudy, the social worker, talked with him and Tina about what is appropriate for their relationship. He smiled and said, “Tina kept saying, ‘Are we in trouble? Are we in trouble?’”

I see the fondness for her on his face. I am relieved that the conversation went well. I say, “And you can still be friends.”

He says, “Yes.”

It seems a nice resolution to a relationship that was serving a need but worrying his sense of what is right.

I lie beside his shakiness and feel the familiar dichotomy of my life. It pulls me in opposite directions. I am relieved and happy for him. I am confounded for us as we try to meet our relationship needs.

I have a little more of him tonight than last night and am thankful and uplifted. But I have had so little of him lately, and experience has taught me that this will be short-lived. Knowing that, it is difficult to celebrate the moment.

How do I cherish the person he was without longing for that person? How do I cherish the person he is without getting mired down in the utter insensibility of this disease?

This morning he is confounded by every need. I cannot understand his words. He cannot follow my directions. We move ahead until he is dressed and ready for his ride to daycare. He seems to want to be on the move, but I cannot understand his purpose. He can’t verbalize his intentions.

I invite him to the garden. I want to show him the unseasonable blooms of an amaryllis. He totters. His unsteadiness is unusual, and I search out a cane. We make our way to the garden. He shows no sign of surprise or wonder, no consternation, and no registered response to what would have at one time lit up his face. I suggest that we return to the house, and he mutters an agreeable sound, but starts off in the opposite direction. I steer him back. When the daycare bus arrives, he asks what it is doing here. I tell him, “This is Monday. You go to SARAH today.” I can only wonder what trick his mind has played on him this time.

The day sprinkles further discord into my thoughts when a neighbor man showers me with compliments and presses to take me to lunch. I decline and later observe my vulnerability to the longing that is stirred for companionship. I am pulled apart by longing and commitment.

I want to slay the dissonance dragon that breathes its stinging breath into our relationship. Instead I keep housing it and wondering what it will do to us next.

© 2007 Ginnie Horst Burkholder

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