Readers, it's been a trying few blogdays. Mike Cherico, Eliot Spitzer, Ben Karlin...if anyone needs douchetoxification, it is we. Good thing there are still at least, like, at least four decent males in this world, one of whom was profiled in Sunday's Washington Post Magazine, so gather around and take heart in the story of Dave Kendall. Many years ago, Dave married a woman with a rare genetic disorder. For the first two decades of married life she was normal, when in her late forties she began slipping irrevocably into advanced vegetablehood. He now feeds her, moves her everywhere, and takes her to the bathroom, keeping close watch on her shits. Her mind is lodged deeply in dementia, but he keeps it as healthy and active as he can, quizzing her on basic arithmetic and forcing her to play Bingo with him. The better he treats her, the longer she lives. "On a computer bulletin board recently, Dave heard of a woman who lived 30 years with Huntington's," the story writes. "By the end, she weighed 44 pounds."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dave is a fan of Job. He has trained himself to feel thankful for truly pathetic things, such as: "She's been more thankful about more things than I would have been. Sometimes I'll be curt with her, and she'll thank me. How bad is that on your conscience?"
It is an illness that can have a very long trajectory: 10 to 20 years is the estimated life-span after diagnosis, but there is no way to know. The better care Dave takes of Diana — and he takes very good care of her — the longer she will live. The longer she lives, the longer he has to live like this: Waking in the night to take Diana to the toilet or settle her after an anxiety episode. Getting up early to prepare her medications and make her breakfast, then rushing home from work to fix them both dinner. Feeding Diana, cleaning Diana, hoisting Diana up and down the stairs. Never taking vacations. Going to weddings and other events by himself. Sleeping alone. And sleeping little.
In an online chat held Monday, Dave recommended that all married couples talk early and often about "contingencies" and buy lots of insurance. The author also recommends the Well Spouse Association chat rooms for moral support, and if you want to find another ailing person's spouse to have an affair with not that anyone's recommending that per se. But seriously, I have been obsessed with this question from the time I read Jane Eyre about twenty years ago until the Terry Schaivo thing totally desensitized me to it: what if you marry someone who decides not to commit suicide in the face of degenerative disease?
The Vow [Washington Post Magazine]
Online Chat Transcript with Dave Kendall [Washington Post]