tagLoving WivesThe Ties that Bind - Retied

The Ties that Bind - Retied

byTory_del_Ricoh©

I like the story The Ties that Bind by Blue88 but felt uneasy at the end that an intelligent educated man could not seem to grasp the implication of mental illness - or maybe it just wasn't happy enough (lol). You should read the original story first as this won't make much sense without it. No sex in this final chapter. Thanks to Blue88 for encouragement to submit this final chapter.

******************

Sometimes you find that even when you know something is true you still can't accept it - a bit like those pictures you see that trick your eyes into seeing something that your logic tells you isn't really there. I knew that Shelly was suffering from a mental illness, but emotionally I couldn't get over what she had done. I suppose that because you can't see a physical diagnosis of mental illness it is harder to accept it as a real medical condition. As a result, although I knew she needed my help I was still holding something back.

I returned to Dr. Biscoe a few days later and he told me that whilst he still had not reached a final diagnosis he was definite that Shelley had had what he called a 'major psychotic episode' during which her personality would have been so radically different that she could effectively be considered a different person. He was still uncertain about the root cause but he was inclined to think it could be some sort of severe depression or perhaps bipolar disorder. I didn't really understand all that he told me (so much for his promise not to use psychobabble) but I did discover that continuing medication should help her live a more 'normal' life. As if anyone could define a 'normal' life! He did say that there was a great deal of evidence to show that family support helped, especially in ensuring that sufferers kept taking their medication. Apparently they often feel so good as a result of the drugs that they don't believe they need to take any more.

I visited Lyle to tell him of my decision to support Shelley through her treatment but how I couldn't get past my emotional hatred of what she had done.

"I understand David. It's not everything I hoped for but I'm pleased you're supporting Shelly. You know that if you want Millie or I to do anything you only have to ask."

"Thanks Lyle."

"I was talking to Gramps the other day and he asked if you'd stop by and visit with him?"

Gramps. When I went to live with Lyle and Millie, her grandfather, Gramps, became my honorary great-grandfather. At that time he lived with his wife, known to all as Grammy, but I never seemed to see much of her, or indeed Gramps until after her death. Now over ninety and widowed, he lived in an old folks home outside the city.

"I suppose he wants to give me some advice as well?"

"Quite possibly. Cut the old guy some slack though. Go and listen at least."

"O.K."

So, two days later, I was in Gramps' room at the home. He was in his favorite armchair looking at the picture in a silver frame that sat on the table beside him. It showed him probably thirty years earlier, sitting in the swing seat on the porch of his old house next to Grammy. They were looking at each other with such love and affection it almost radiated out of the picture.

"Davey boy. Good to see you."

"Hello Gramps. You know I love that photo. I always think the picture shows true love. You both look so happy."

"Ah my Laura. I've missed her every day since the Good Lord called her. Still she's awaitin' on me and my time draws closer. I look forward to the time we'll be together for eternity. I tell you boy no man had a better wife, no two people loved each other more than us. Sit yourself down and let me tell you about my Laura."

*****

Laura Travers was the prettiest girl in our small mid-west town. We sat together in school, friends from the day we met. Heaven help any boy who pulled her pigtails or said anything to upset her; I got in some awful fights, much to her annoyance. As soon as we could escape our families in church we sat together there as well. From the age of sixteen every young man in the neighborhood had asked her to step out or to attend a dance or church picnic but she only ever went with me, Arty Jenner.

She stood six inches shorter than me, slim and elegant with a smile that could make my heart do back flips, brown eyes in which I was lost whenever I looked into them and long, wavy, chestnut brown hair. Her soft lilting voice was like gentle music and never did I hear it raised in anger, she just never got angry.

On her twenty-first birthday, with her parents' approval, I proposed. She accepted and we were married six months later. I had a good job and we managed to rent a small house. Within five years we had three kids and as much happiness as we could bear. Eventually we bought that house, it had so many good memories that we couldn't bring ourselves to leave it.

Things began to change twenty five years ago. Laura began to get forgetful. We laughed together when she'd forget some silly thing; it just seemed we were getting old. Trouble was she kept getting worse and then my world fell apart when the doc said my beautiful wife had Alzheimer's.

We got given all sorts of medication to try and slow down the inevitable, but the doc had told us that nothing could stop it. My wonderful Laura told me to put her in a clinic so I wouldn't have to face the hardship that was coming, but I would rather have chopped off my hand; so we went on and life got tougher but I still had my Laura. After nearly sixty years of being together, since we first met in school, I couldn't imagine being apart.

The doctors had told me what to expect but I tell you nothing could really prepare me for the first morning that she woke up in our bed and didn't know who I was. That hurt a lot but I knew my Laura was still inside her body somewhere. From then on we had good days and bad days. On the good days my Laura was there and we were still as much in love as the day we married. On the bad days she didn't know me, and sometimes it would scare her. Eventually I had to sleep in another room to stop her being frightened when she woke up on the bad days.

The good days got fewer and then the 'monster' appeared. The docs tried to explain it with their fancy words but what it amounted to was a whole other person inside my Laura's brain. Trouble was this other person was real mean. A lot of things got thrown at me so I had to start hiding stuff away. Then one morning I woke up to find Laura with a kitchen knife which she buried in my shoulder. We had a real fight over that knife until I finally managed to get help. The police and my kids wanted to put my Laura away in an institution but I couldn't do it. How would she feel if she had one of her good days in a place like that? Anyways I'd made promises to her when we got married. I'd said I'd love her, honor her and look after her in sickness and in health until we was parted by death. I knew that the 'monster' was just her illness coming out; my Laura could never do something like that. I decided that if the Good Lord had chosen to test me, I wasn't going to be found wanting. I just made sure I hid all the dangerous stuff, and had a lock on the door when I was asleep. 'Fraid towards the end I had to hire some nurses to help until God decided it was her time. Like I said, I hope it won't be long now 'til I can join her in heaven - if'n I'm good enough.

*****

I was humbled by Gramps' story. The depth and strength of his love for his wife, the honor with which he upheld his marriage vows and the pride he took in being the best husband he could possibly be, I felt inadequate by comparison.

"All this happened and I knew nothing?"

"You had problems enough as a youngster, what with losin' your parents and all. Wouldn't have been fair to give you more."

"But Lyle and Millie had all this and helped me." My feelings took another nosedive. Humility, inadequacy and worst of all guilt: loads of guilt. All the times I'd used Lyle, Millie and, yes, even Gramps, as emotional support after the death of my folks, without ever realising what turmoil they were enduring.

"How did they find the strength? How did you find the strength?"

"I went to church every Sunday and drew strength from God. The preacher would visit with us and it helped to have him to talk to. I s'pose the thing that helped most was to realise that the illness had created the 'monster,' and that it shared the same body as Laura but it wasn't the same person. The 'monster' was the thing that God and I had to fight, for Laura's sake."

I had so much to think about. I let Gramps spend the rest of the afternoon reminiscing while I half listened and we drank coffee and ate cookies.

When I returned to Lyle's house I tried, badly, to tell them that I now realised how much I really owed them and how inadequate my gratitude was. Of course they dismissed it as nothing, which only made me feel worse.

I was having to rethink my attitude and position. I had been so sure of myself, so certain I was right. My life, like my work, had always been based on assembling evidence and facts, then drawing conclusions and setting out my position accordingly. The trouble now was, I needed to reconsider my evidence. Some of the things I thought I knew no longer seemed to be as clear cut. Did I truly understand what mental illness meant or did I just say I did for appearance sake? Did I really think about my marriage vows? I was quick enough to tell Shelley when I thought she had broken her vows but what about me? Just how much did I love Shelley? Worse still, did I love Shelley?

More questions than answers - didn't that come from a song? I knew that Lyle and Millie didn't want me to get a divorce. It was pretty clear that George thought it was worth persevering through adversity and Gramps would remind me of my marriage vows. Connie and Susan had said I needed to know more.

Connie and Susan. Oh God! The memories of that last time we met in their condo. A drunken game of strip poker that almost degenerated into an orgy. Me, an associate professor the same as Susan, my gay friend, and her partner, a neurologist: three supposedly intelligent rational people. So how was it I only just stopped myself having sex with Connie. We were like different people. If alcohol could turn us into different people, what could mental illness do to Shelly?

I needed advice and help from someone else. I had never really been religious. At sixteen I had blamed God for the death of my parents and I had never got round to apologising. Now seemed to be a good time to start over so I arranged to meet the preacher at my local church whose name, I kid you not, was Simeon Kurtwangler.

As it turned out Simeon was a real easy going guy, a couple of years older than me. He let me tell him my life story, the death of my parents, my 'adoption' by Lyle and Millie, marriage to Shelly and, of course, the recent descent into misery. He made no comments, passed no judgements, just asked questions - sometimes awkward, difficult to answer questions. He asked why I was looking for more answers and I told him about Gramps. Funny but as he asked his questions I found the answers within myself and as I answered I seemed to gain strength and confidence. Maybe God was helping me, certainly I liked to think so. Then he hit me with a real stinker.

"What's the worst thing that could happen if you don't go back to live with Shelly?"

"It's difficult to know but I suppose if I believe what I've found out about depression and so forth, then the absolute worst would be that she committed suicide because she wasn't taking her medication."

"Why?"

"Because I love her, and I'd feel guilty that I'd let her down."

"Then why not stay with her?"

"I'm scared that she'll hurt me."

"Would that hurt more than if she killed herself?"

That was it: the crunch question. I'd have to face it now. I couldn't bear the thought of losing her. I thought I could protect myself by staying away yet salve my conscience by saying I would support her.

"No." I said, quietly.

"So how does that fit with what you felt your great grandfather was saying?"

"I feel like a fraud, a hypocrite. I made the same vows that he did."

By the end of my visit I had a clear idea of what I was going to do.

That evening I found myself once more at the door of our town house. I rung the bell and Shelly answered. She still looked pale and drawn and she had lost weight. She had no make up on and wore a loose sweatshirt and jeans. My heart did the sort of flip-flop that it used to when I first knew her and I had a strong desire to protect her, to wrap her in my arms and make all the bad stuff go away.

"David! What's wrong? What are you doing here?"

"Can I come in? I feel like a salesman."

"Of course, you never need to ask." She didn't look unhappy to see me, then again she didn't actually look happy either.

I followed her through to the kitchen and sat at the table whilst she made us coffee. I was beginning to feel a lot less confident now; perhaps this wasn't so clever after all. Perhaps I wasn't so clever. I could be heading for a major fall; maybe I had already pushed her too far away. Shelly put my coffee down and I took a sip followed by a deep breath before I started. The ring made by the bottom of the mug on the table had suddenly become fascinating, I was too scared to look into her eyes.

"I've been thinking about everything that's happened and taking advice from a load of people and there's things I need to tell you and some questions I need to ask."

"Anything. You know I'll do my best to answer any questions you have truthfully. No more lies or temper."

"This could be one of the hardest things I've ever asked of you."

"Anything." She repeated but with less confidence.

"Can you, will you, forgive me?" I blurted the words out, now terrified that her reply would be no.

"I know you haven't forgiven......What did you say?"

"Will you forgive me?"

"What for? I don't understand." She looked almost bewildered.

"When we married, I promised to love, honor and protect you in sickness and in health. I failed. You became ill and I ran away; when you needed me most I wasn't here. I'm sorry, I let you down."

"But after what I did you shouldn't have to keep your promises."

"You did nothing. The demon inside you that comes from your illness did those things. Everyone kept saying how you were a different person because of the depression, I just didn't understand. Now I really need you to forgive me."

"I still don't really think this is right but of course I forgive you, but why do you need it?"

"It is right and I need it so I can ask my next question." Shelly looked even more confused. "Can I come back and live with you as your husband?"

"But......What?......I don't understand. You told me, you hate what I did."

"You didn't do anything, the demon did it. The demon isn't you, it's what takes over your body when you don't have the strength to stop it. Between you and me, your medication, the doctors, Lyle and Millie, and the rest of our friends and family, we'll work hard to fight that demon. Oh I know there'll good days and bad days, ups and downs, rough and smooth; maybe we'll have more bad than good, then again maybe we won't. I'll try hard to make the good as good as it can be for us both, and our love will be the reward."

"Do you really mean it David? I couldn't stand it if this is part of some revenge plan."

"I suppose I deserve your mistrust after the way I behaved, but, no, it's no revenge plan. I want and need to be your husband. I love you, I always have."

"Oh David, it's what I want more than anything. I love you so much. Perhaps if I didn't love you the pain and guilt from what I did wouldn't hurt as much. Hold me darling, never let me go."

We stood and she came to me. I wrapped my arms around her and I knew that we would make it.

Epilog

The last five years have been, shall we say, challenging. It took a while to get the right cocktail of drugs, and we still have to review their effectiveness regularly, but now bad days are very few and very bad days seem almost non-existent. Shelley is the easy going, cheerful woman I married once more - except on the bad days, but she always had some of them anyway when she was depressed.

We decided that we would reinforce the family support and our daughter, Laura, is now two. We discussed the risks of inherited mental illness but after talking it over with the medical professionals the risk was not really that much worse than all the other possible inherited conditions. It was definitely worth it because she is the focus of Shelly's life apart from me. Shelly gave up her career for a new one as a full time mother and liked it so much that now she's pregnant again.

Gramps has passed away but it was hard to be really upset when we knew that it was what he wanted, and with his total conviction that he would be reunited with his beloved Laura. At least he lived long enough to see the birth of our Laura and he seemed pleased that we gave her the name.

Lyle and Millie are the proudest grandparents that ever lived and look for every opportunity to spend time with Shelly and Laura, so much so that sometimes I almost feel left out.

To my great surprise and intense satisfaction, the bastard Bob Fallow was convicted of rape. I don't pretend to understand the legality of it, but now he is serving 10-15 years and I am more than happy.

I'm still not sure about God although Shelly, Laura and I go to church every Sunday now - just in case.

***************************

1. The Alzheimer's part of this story is sadly based on a true life story from family (including an attack with a knife).

2. My own daughter suffers with mental health problems and it is always difficult to understand and accept how this affects her personality.

3. I spent many hours researching Psychotic behaviour and bipolar disorder- and associated treatment - to try to write this with some degree of sympathy and understanding.

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