I laughed when she ordered a glass of “wooder” and the waitress had no clue as to what she was saying. Her thick South Jersey accent was so foreign to our San Diego born and bred server that she sounded like she was speaking a different language. I have been here 38 years and had long ago dropped that way of speaking so that now I am usually understood. My ears perked up every time she said a word in an accent I used to have, and still slip into now and then when I am with someone from my old life. It was a trip back in time to hear her speak and I remembered how for many years after I moved here people would do the same thing to me until without really trying, I dropped the Jersey “twang.”
I had not seen this friend in almost five years. I knew her before she married my uncle and the marriage made her my aunt as well as a friend, although we were the same age. The last time I visited her in New Jersey was to see my uncle who was very ill. I wanted to see him while he was alive rather than fly in for a funeral. Now, sitting on my sofa nursing a glass of white wine, I heard the intimate details involved with taking care of a very ill person. I nursed a sick husband who passed away in a short time and I supervise the care for my sister who has a live-in caregiver, but never did I have to deal with the day to day care of someone who was deteriorating for a long time.
She told me how she watched as this dynamic, successful and incredibly handsome 6’4” attorney got weaker and weaker and thinner and thinner until he was a 120 pound shell of himself. She described moving a cot into the family room where his hospital bed was placed so she could still sleep near him. I listened in awe to the day by day ups and downs she experienced and my heart went out to her. Although he has been gone over four years, she spoke as if it was yesterday. Theirs had been a real love story and the loss was still so vivid to her.
They met when after losing her first husband in a car crash that left her with four small children, she went to him as an attorney to seek damages in the crash of the faulty car that killed him. He was divorced with two kids of his own and eventually they fell in love.
Their marriage was enhanced by the fact that he was so successful that they could live a life of such wealth that money was never a consideration. Some of my family resented her and silently accused her of being with a man 12 years her senior for the lifestyle he provided. They insisted she wanted a good life for her children and used him for that purpose. I never got that impression and as she described in detail what her caregiving entailed, my initial thoughts were confirmed.
It takes a lot of love to do the dirty work in a relationship and this was dirty work in every sense of the word. She did what had to be done and never resented him for getting sick. I wanted to phone the naysayers and tell them how I feel about her and how much I disagree with their degradation of her. But I didn’t. I don’t feel the need to. I just felt good that I was able to tell her how impressed I am with the loving care she gave my uncle and together we bonded, not over a glass of wooder, but a lovely glass of wine.