People often ask me how my husband is. I hesitate to answer. I try to gauge why they are asking.
Are they worried about him? Are they wondering how I am coping with his Parkinson’s Disease? Are they being polite and maybe don’t really want to know? If I stay too long on my answer, will I be perceived as whining or ungrateful? If I answer the question flippantly, am I in denial?
There are many gifts of love that our relationship has bestowed: mainly, the three awesome kids. And also people ask, How are the kids managing? To answer that, I usually say, “They’re great. They should probably be in counseling (as should we all), but we are all overscheduled and actually, we’re fine.”
Is it okay for me, a spouse of member with a chronic illness to say, “Fine?” I don’t know how much to open up. I mostly express gratitude for my husband’s positive attitude. I am grateful that he works out through the JCC Parkinson’s Program several times a week. He also goes to the chiropractor several times a week. He leans to one side a lot. He has other physical limitations. The disease bestows pscyho-social consequences which can be difficult for our family. He falls asleep a lot. There are other behavioral aspects, tied to the medication or disease or odd sleep habits.
The question is valid: how is he? My answer is also valid: I don’t know.
My husband has a progressive illness. His disease is progressing. He was diagnosed nine years ago. He is still amazingly capable of many daily tasks of living. And yet, there are many tasks that have fallen by the wayside.
I don’t always want to talk or write about it. I want to say (and people may want to hear), “Fine. He is fine. We are fine. Now, how are you? How’s your family?”
The truth is, if you answer me that you are not fine, that you have struggles too, and that life’s not always easy or what you bargained for, it’s okay with me. It’s okay if you are not always grateful.
In fact, admitting the struggle, and aiming for a semblance of resilience, somehow makes me feel better and makes me feel less alone. Because by asking me, How’s he doing? I think you know for our family, the disease is not always fine, easy, or inspiring. But it’s fine, one day at a time. It’s fine.