Experiment: Textual Photographs

This experimental piece of writing is followed by a series of “textual photographs” per instructions given in class this week.

Diary Entry
October 6th, 2007

Moving into his own apartment has definitely been the best thing for him.  One of my husband’s main symptoms is an inability to deal with distractions and things being “out of order.”  Living in a household with three kids, a wife, pets, and the general happenings of any busy family was too much for him. The kids and I walked on eggshells constantly, but anything could upset him. There was no way to prevent his rages.

(Who knew a freezer could slam shut so loudly?)
Stomp. Stomp. Stomp.
More than yelling.  Roaring.  A raging lion.
Rattling windows.  Rattling nerves.
Over ice cubes?
Children and cats scamper to hiding places throughout the house.
“Honey, please.  Try to calm down.  You’re scaring the kids.”
Oof.  Ouch.
Wow, such a horrifying feeling—someone picking me up and throwing me physically across the room like a toy to land in a crumpled heap on the living room floor.
Later, he’d ask why I over-reacted and threw myself across the room.
Another day in the life of this stupid disease.

Keep in mind this was previously one of the kindest, gentlest men I’d ever known.  These rages and out-of-control episodes were completely out of character for the man I’d been married to for essentially my entire adult life. He never physically hurt the children. I spent my waking hours keeping the kids safe. But because I was constantly putting myself between him and the kids, I called down his wrath and rages directly onto myself.

He doesn’t seem to remember why we’re no longer living together.  He often forgets that he even has a problem—another prominent symptom:  lack of self-awareness.  He seems to think our marriage just ended.  It’s sad and difficult to be married to a man who no longer recognizes our relationship as an on-going thing.  Sometimes he remembers we had to separate households because of his health problems.  He’s always so sad when he remembers what’s actually happening. Other times he seems to think he’s an adult child who left home.

VOICE MESSAGE:  ‘I can’t come down this weekend.  I’m going to a birthday party. See you next weekend.’
Repeat.  We hear the same Voice Message every Thursday for three months.
“Mom, I don’t think Dad even knows enough people to have a birthday party to go to every weekend.  Do you think he even remembers from one week to the next that he’s used that excuse before for not coming down?”
“Nope, he probably has no idea he’s said it before.”
“Sometimes it feels like there’s a glitch in the Matrix. It’s such a stupid excuse, too … a little kid excuse.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“It’s super frustrating how we have to hold our weekend plans open just in case he actually has a weekend without a ‘birthday party’.”
Hugs. Tears.
“I miss my dad.  I don’t know who this guy is.  It’s like we inherited somebody’s crazy uncle. But we have to call him Dad.”

He won’t let us come to his apartment anymore.  I don’t know if it’s just the stress of having people there that’s too much for him, or if he’s hiding something.  With his memory lapses and uncontrolled rages, it’s hard to make sense of what’s happening in his life these days.

He no longer acknowledges our anniversary or my birthday.  He no longer wears his wedding ring. I’m living life as a married woman—he’s living life as a single person. In many ways, it feels like he’s already died. The kind, gentle man I’ve loved and built a life with is long gone.  Some stranger stepped in to take his place.  Could be a new episode of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Before he became ill, we would talk. A lot. Staying up most of the night, talking about life, family, goals, dreams, parenting, etc., was a common—almost nightly occurrence—for years and years in our marriage.  Now, when I face major (and even minor) family decisions—and I find myself wishing that I had my husband’s input—I can recall our past conversations and extrapolate from there how he may have responded to the situations now.  I find this is a helpful and practical way to honor and respect him for the man he was before this horrible disease took him from us.

Photograph #1 (November 1979)

Casual wedding photo taken in Hough’s living room.  Bride in white Gunny-Sac dress with matching wide-brimmed lace-trimmed bridal hat.  Groom in brown corduroy three piece suit.  Stone fireplace in background.  Bride and groom holding hands, looking directly at camera, and smiling.

Photograph #2 (May 1987)

Husband holding baby in front pack.  He is wearing a white and blue striped polo shirt with light blue shorts.  Photo taken on mountainside at Ohme Gardens State Park in Wenatchee, Washington.  Trees and Wenatchee Valley in background.  Baby is sleeping with head resting on her father’s chest.  He is smiling.  Had right arm cradling baby’s back.

Photograph #3  (Easter morning, 1997)

Outdoor family photograph taken before church.  Mother to the left of photo wearing knee-length off-white skirt with matching sweater, holding two-year-old daughter who is wearing a pink and blue print dress with matching floppy hat.  Father to the right wearing navy dress pants and casual button-down short-sleeved beige shirt.  He has his hands on the shoulders of ten-year-old daughter (center of photo) and six-year-old son (to the right).  Older daughter wearing a white sleeveless dress with multi-colored polka dots.  Son wearing navy dress pants, blue-and-white button down shirt, and navy bow-tie.  Everyone is smiling except for son who is frowning and staring at something out of sight behind and to the right of photographer.  Front of a small white house, green lawn, and red rhododendron in background.

Photograph #4 (November 2004)

Family trip to Disneyland.  Mother standing to the left of photo wearing black sleeveless polo, beige walking shorts, and brown leather Doc Marten sandals.  Mother has arms around shoulders of two oldest children standing on either side of her.  She is frowning and looking at husband.  Oldest daughter is between mother and father, wearing a pink Minnie Mouse t-shirt, blue shorts, and white Converse shoes.  She is not smiling and has both arms around mother’s waist, head resting on mother’s left side. Son is standing to left of mother, wearing “I’m Grumpy” Snow White themed t-shirt, frowning and looking at ground.  Youngest child smiling and standing between older sister and father, wearing one-piece sun suit, and holding hands with older sister.  Father to right of photo, frowning and looking off into distance, hands on hips, elbows wide, standing about 12-inches away from family group.  He is wearing a black Mickey Mouse t-shirt, blue shorts, white crew socks, and white running shoes.  One sock is rolled down to top of shoe, other sock is pulled up to just below the knee.

Photograph #5  (January 2005)

Outside hospital emergency room.  Mother wearing grey sweatpants and navy hoody, sitting in wheelchair, arm in sling, frowning, visible black eye.  Father wearing blue jeans, black sweatshirt, white running shoes, and pushing wheelchair, frowning.

Photograph #6 (June 2007)

Family photo taken outside home in Auburn, Washington.  Flowering cherry tree and blue house in background.  Mother in center of photo, smiling, wearing blue jeans, white button-up short-sleeved blouse, black leather sandals.  Smiling oldest daughter standing to mother’s right, wearing multi-colored floral skirt with yellow tank top.  Youngest daughter standing in front of mother and sister, wearing blue shorts, green t-shirt, white sandals, smiling and holding long-haired tabby cat.  Son standing left of mother, frowning and not looking at camera, holding skateboard in right arm.  He is wearing black jeans, black skateboarding shoes, black t-shirt, black stretchy hat, and red-green-and-white beaded necklace with black skull pendant.