I plan to submit the following essay to a project called This I Believe, based on the original program broadcast on National Public Radio several years ago. I was tempted to write something like this after Bill suffered his first stroke because I believed that one day, he would walk through the front door and take me in his arms. Although he never walked through that door after his strokes, there were still many embraces, and now, I know what I believe.
A Writer’s Destiny
In January of 2005, I received a letter that changed my life. Being visually impaired, I was in a long distance relationship with a totally blind man I met two years earlier through a magazine. Bill lived in Fowler, Colorado. I lived in Sheridan, Wyoming. We were drawn to each other because I worked in a nursing home, and his mother lived in one. We met face to face twice when Dad and I detoured to Fowler on our way to New Mexico to visit relatives. I thought he just wanted to be friends.
On that night in January, I had to consider the possibility that our relationship would be more than that. I wasn’t ready to share my life with anyone and didn’t want to leave my home town. To my surprise, Bill told me he wanted to move to Sheridan, and this made my decision easier. He came for a visit two months later. At first, I had my doubts, but when he officially proposed to me at a restaurant with family and friends, I said yes.
In July of 2005, Bill moved to Sheridan. In September, we were married. I quit my job and started writing full time.
In January of 2006, I returned home one night to find him lying on the floor, drenched in sweat, barely coherent. After a trip to the hospital, we learned he’d suffered a debilitating stroke. He was eventually admitted to the nursing home where I worked for fifteen years.
His left side was paralyzed, and after two months of therapy, he reached a plateau, and we were forced to face the fact that he might never walk again. In September of 2006, I brought him home and became a full time caregiver.
In October, he started outpatient therapy, and we thought he would be on his feet again. In January of 2007, he suffered a second mild stroke that set him back. He continued outpatient therapy, but in August, they gave up on him. We had five good years until he declined to the point where I could hardly lift him. I moved him back to the nursing home where he died a month later.
I now realize that because of my experience with nursing home residents, some higher power determined that I was best suited to care for Bill when the time came. If I hadn’t married him, he would have ended up in the nursing home in Fowler along with his mother. He wouldn’t have lived as long or enjoyed the same quality of life.
At a dead end with my music therapy career, I started writing. If I hadn’t quit my job with Bill’s encouragement, I wouldn’t have published three books. After Bill’s strokes, I learned to dress him, transfer him from one place to another, and perform other personal care tasks I never dreamed of doing. In the end, he taught me that a disability should never stop you. I believe in fate, that we were meant to be together, even for a short time.