Major Changes as Spouses Age

Posted by joyces @joyces, Apr 14, 2020

My second husband and I met while both of us worked in the sport fishing industry, he in a tackle shop only a couple years into the industry, and me working for a publisher of sport fishing magazines and books, a decade into the industry. Our first "date" was fishing together and watching steelhead attempt to leap over a waterfall. He became the second editor of the fly fishing magazine the publisher and I had started five years earlier. Although my job managing the publication of two magazines, a quarterly, an annual, and six books/year was demanding and meant working an average of 70 hours/week, I was paid well and loved it. Because he was a male, the publisher expected him to be off fishing at least a couple of days every week. We were able to fish at many luxury lodges because we made a great writing/photography team. I'm five years older, so expected that we would be able to age–and fish–together. After a few years, the publisher's children were old enough to be a big part of the business, so we started our own design and marketing business to serve the sport fishing industry. We shared an 18' driftboat we'd helped design…and market, of course! Lots of work, but lots of wonderful times spent together.

Eleven years ago, he ruptured a disc in his lower back, had surgery by a really bad fellow who sought out people with underlying health conditions so that he could claim repeated surgery (at his day surgery center, of course) was necessary. Three back surgeries in one year, the final one a fusion. He had persistent pain, was a brittle diabetic with less than 30% kidney function, but he worked full time for our boat mfg. client while I did all the nuts and bolts of design and marketing for all our clients. We still fished every few days, except in the worst of winter weather. He trailered stacks of boats to nine trade shows every winter, each show being a five-day event generally several hours distant. Eight years ago, he had to go on dialysis, so he couldn't travel to trade shows but continued to sell boats from the factory. Even though he was working full time and going to dialysis three nights a week, we still fished most weekends. I continued to do fish surveys in a wild little stream, a project we had started together in 1993, even though following back surgery he wasn't able to hike long distances over difficult terrain. The project is closing in on 30 years, and I'm still volunteering in the same wild watershed.

When he got the kidney transplant, I visualized great days ahead. At the same time, he had planned to retire, i.e., do absolutely nothing, not even the few chores he had been doing around the house, because he felt he had earned retirement. Hmmm…what about those years where I worked long hours while, because he was male, he was allowed to "work" onstream???? His recovery was ultra-smooth, perfect labs, virtually no fine-tuning necessary for the various meds. When he came home from the hospital, he began his retirement routine: he reclines in his recliner and expects me to fetch whatever he needs. He eats all his meals there, watches TV, reads…except for frequent breaks to lie on the couch. We moved to this acreage on the coast, which I had initially purchased when I was 19, and, as a retired person, he expected me to do the packing, haul everything out to the trailer and van, drive it here, and pack much of it upstairs to our new loft. After six months, he had lost most most of his muscle tone, and he had far worse pain. Since then, I've tried to get him to go to PT many times. He did go to a local person, who gave him a pass from doing anything even slightly difficult; that was relatively worthless and only lasted a few weeks. Later, I insisted that he return to the pain mgmt. clinic to which he'd been referred by the transplant team. They sent him to a PT who expected him to work, but she gave up on his lack of progress after 10 months. Since then, he rarely leaves the house other than for doc appts. I nagged him into joining the local fly fishing club, and he did agree to go on a very easy outing, the first time he'd fished at all in years. However, after 15 minutes of me rowing him around a lake, he announced he needed to lie down. I left him at the car and rowed around the lake for 45 minutes or so, got a great photo of a heron and test casted a new fly rod. it's too difficult for him to sit upright more than a short time, so lots of activities are not open to us. If I suggest dinner out, he insists on ordering takeout, which isn't the same at all. I never expected that marrying someone five years younger would work out this badly! Once a week, I escape by making the 110-mile drive to the Portland area to load 400-600 loaves of bread donated to our local Backpack program. That's an entire day away from watching him steadily lose balance function and strength. If he gets much worse, I'll need to use all the money we've saved to pay for care at the only decent facility in this small town. Meanwhile, I work every day to conquer my problems with lack of balance and hearing due to the reappearance almost a year ago of the Meniere's monster. I'm working hard to get a remission in order to lock him in the closet and nail it shut! No matter how bad I feel, I am not retired but must keep the household running, care for the pets, do all the yardwork that acreage requires. Bah, humbug!

I know I'm not the only woman in this situation. The founder of our local Backpack program has the same problem with her husband, only in his case it's following successful foot surgery, even though he refuses to do PT to regain his ability to walk. They also live on acreage, and we often laugh about our similar situations.

YES!! Hate to admit it, but I also miss sex itself, on top of missing hugs, etc.

REPLY
@joyces

YES!! Hate to admit it, but I also miss sex itself, on top of missing hugs, etc.

Jump to this post

I guess it is time for me to "grow up" and accept what I cannot fix. Life is not always easy, is it?

REPLY
@maryflorida

I guess it is time for me to "grow up" and accept what I cannot fix. Life is not always easy, is it?

Jump to this post

Speaking as one who lost their spouse of 42 years after a multiyear war with brain cancer, sometimes as we age, in order to be happy, we need to focus on what we have and not what we wish we had. Believe me, once you lose your spouse there will be far more you miss. Just my two cents, plain.

Strength, courage, and peace

REPLY
@IndianaScott

Speaking as one who lost their spouse of 42 years after a multiyear war with brain cancer, sometimes as we age, in order to be happy, we need to focus on what we have and not what we wish we had. Believe me, once you lose your spouse there will be far more you miss. Just my two cents, plain.

Strength, courage, and peace

Jump to this post

@IndianaSc I so agree I lost my husband 20 yrs ago and lost more then sex ,lost him

REPLY

What I miss most of all is all the things we no longer can do together, because he can't walk more than a few feet, is in incredible pain in the car…all because, even though several docs and PTs have shown him that movement will reduce his back pain, he simply refuses. When I escape the house, I feel guilty because he might need something. We used to work together, fish together, and do some things around the house together, although I've always been the one to do repairs or upgrades. Now, he does absolutely nothing, refuses to sit at the table for meals, which means we never ask anyone to visit. My dog is my constant companion, but he's beginning to show his age at 9, so I need to get a young dog to keep the older one active, which presents a whole new bunch of problems. If I spend the time necessary to train a young dog, my companion dog will have his feelings hurt, and the day when I take the young dog out for an entire day of river work, it will really hurt the old fellow. As it is, he's very quiet when he knows I'm leaving without him and clings to me when I get back home. In the past, my husband never worked to train any of our dogs (we always had two or three), but at least he could occupy the older one while I worked with the new one. When I see couples walking along our road, I wish I were part of that scene. I have the obligations on a full-time caregiver, but none of the "perks" of having a spouse.

REPLY
@IndianaScott

Speaking as one who lost their spouse of 42 years after a multiyear war with brain cancer, sometimes as we age, in order to be happy, we need to focus on what we have and not what we wish we had. Believe me, once you lose your spouse there will be far more you miss. Just my two cents, plain.

Strength, courage, and peace

Jump to this post

Yes you are right. When he is sick, with so many diseases, I often think that I am glad I have him still. Although I am 5 years older than he is, I am in 99% perfect health so may be left alone one day. A thought I hate to consider. Hoping you all are able to do what Scott said, "Focus on what we do have." Like one of my daughters said (regarding her husband), "It doesn't matter if he's not perfect, and if he is a bit messy. He is my husband!"

REPLY
@IndianaScott

Speaking as one who lost their spouse of 42 years after a multiyear war with brain cancer, sometimes as we age, in order to be happy, we need to focus on what we have and not what we wish we had. Believe me, once you lose your spouse there will be far more you miss. Just my two cents, plain.

Strength, courage, and peace

Jump to this post

@IndianaScott I knew going in to our marriage, of my husband's kidney issues. I told him about my issues at that time. He did not sign on for the multiple myeloma that has reared its head in me, nor did he sign on for the depression I work with each day [and all the nuances that has!]. We have talked plenty, and have tried to adopt the same attitude you eloquently point out. Thank you.

REPLY
@gingerw

@IndianaScott I knew going in to our marriage, of my husband's kidney issues. I told him about my issues at that time. He did not sign on for the multiple myeloma that has reared its head in me, nor did he sign on for the depression I work with each day [and all the nuances that has!]. We have talked plenty, and have tried to adopt the same attitude you eloquently point out. Thank you.

Jump to this post

Hi Ginger,
You are the last person I thought would suffer from depression. You do so, so much, hauling stones for one thing. You really are so positive.
In high school I knew a gal who had depression. She had no energy, would not eat, had no interest in anything.
That to me is depression.
Are you sure you just feel overwhelmed with so much to do?
Are you going to watch the DODGERS THIS EARLY P.M.
Don’t forget you are still one of us down here in CA.
STAY WELL,
FUNCOUNTESS

REPLY
@funcountess

Hi Ginger,
You are the last person I thought would suffer from depression. You do so, so much, hauling stones for one thing. You really are so positive.
In high school I knew a gal who had depression. She had no energy, would not eat, had no interest in anything.
That to me is depression.
Are you sure you just feel overwhelmed with so much to do?
Are you going to watch the DODGERS THIS EARLY P.M.
Don’t forget you are still one of us down here in CA.
STAY WELL,
FUNCOUNTESS

Jump to this post

@funcountess Yes, I have worked with depressive issues for many years. There are times it is worse than others, times when I don't admit it, and everything in between. I recently started a low-dose antidepressant again, which is helping. It is important to realize that depression looks different on different people.
Ginger

REPLY
@gingerw

@funcountess Yes, I have worked with depressive issues for many years. There are times it is worse than others, times when I don't admit it, and everything in between. I recently started a low-dose antidepressant again, which is helping. It is important to realize that depression looks different on different people.
Ginger

Jump to this post

Hi Ginger, I’m glad the low doseRx is helping you.
I still think you are pretty amazing. I’m sure others do also.
Stay well

REPLY
@IndianaScott

Speaking as one who lost their spouse of 42 years after a multiyear war with brain cancer, sometimes as we age, in order to be happy, we need to focus on what we have and not what we wish we had. Believe me, once you lose your spouse there will be far more you miss. Just my two cents, plain.

Strength, courage, and peace

Jump to this post

Thanks @IndianaScott for putting a different perspective out there! I too lost my spouse after a cancer battle (18 years married, 3 1/2 year cancer battle, with a 4YO son, who also died – 5 months after his father, due to an undiagnosed rare disease).

You're right, there is far more to miss. The travel adventures, the shared history, the private jokes, the companionship, the loss of dreams, the loss of security (both physical and financial).These things often seem amplified in today's out-of-control world. Like you said, just my two cents.

Your closing sentiment is beautiful – "Strength, courage and peace", and I echo it.

REPLY
@maryflorida

Yes you are right. When he is sick, with so many diseases, I often think that I am glad I have him still. Although I am 5 years older than he is, I am in 99% perfect health so may be left alone one day. A thought I hate to consider. Hoping you all are able to do what Scott said, "Focus on what we do have." Like one of my daughters said (regarding her husband), "It doesn't matter if he's not perfect, and if he is a bit messy. He is my husband!"

Jump to this post

@maryflorida– I love how you phrased your post, Mary. This is how I feel too. I hope that he does me as well. I am a stage 4 lung cancer survivor and he has taken care of me for 23 years as I battle this cancer. We have been pretty active during this time but COVID has put a kibosh on that. However, we have had a scare that he might also have a cancerous lesion on his lung and are waiting for a follow-up scan in early December. I am wearing the "take care role" now. He says that he now knows what I have felt like many times prior to my scans. This is good! lol. I will always love and care for this man who so tenderly and carefully he has cared for me.

REPLY
Please sign in or register to post a reply.