I vividly recall the very first time I lied to Jacquelynn.
Not a little fib about how many cookies I ate or how my day at work really went, but a deliberately constructed and executed lie delivered with the sole intent of misleading her about something I did not want her to know…
It was during her initial examination for her frozen shoulder in the late summer of 2016 when she first openly displayed clear and undeniable symptoms of cognitive decline. With her complete inability to follow simple instructions regarding attempting to move her arm and even a short period of seeming catatonia, the doctor looked at me with mild alarm and asked if this was normal behavior.
Knowing full well that such things were becoming more common at home, but terrified of her hearing me tell the doctor so, I told him that, no, I had never seen such a thing before. It would be less than a week later, when I had rushed to my sister’s home 100+ miles away in response to another scare for our mother’s health (she would pass less than a year later) that Jacquelynn would say something to me on the telephone which would send me speeding home in a panic, no longer able to deny the facts before me.
My wife was, literally, losing her mind.
Returning home, I ironed out the crisis that had brought me home and tried to discuss it with her, but she would have NONE of it. I was clearly overreacting and why would I ever think that of her? This would lead to our very first real fight in seventeen years together, with her shouting and crying and me futilely trying to hold us both together in the face of what I feared we were facing. The day ended with a direct order that this never be discussed with anyone. This. Stayed. Home. The following day, I called the doctor’s office and left an urgent message requesting to speak directly to him. It was a full day before he called back, but I unburdened myself on him, telling him that yes, the cognitive difficulties were becoming all too common. She could no longer write her name legibly and after what had happened, I was no longer even sure she could read. I needed help, but (and here is born the lie), it was imperative that she have no idea that I called or we had this discussion.
Why? Because I was afraid, that’s why. I was afraid, after the intensity of our fight two days earlier, that if she felt again that I had “betrayed” her by discussing it with the doctor, it would forever destroy her ability to trust me ever again, and if my suspicions were realized (we know now they were), I was going to need her unhesitating trust going forward in order to take the best possible care of her.
Our next visit to the doctor did NOT go well. Ostensibly a checkup for the shoulder, it quickly turned into an ambush, the tiny exam room crammed with nurses, aides, a social worker, and the doctor himself. Before she has any idea what’s happening, they’re administering a MOCA (MOntreal Cognitive Assessment) test and hammering her with questions and she’s getting more and more agitated and is soon deep in her very first crippling panic attack. After the room cleared and she settled a little, leaning on me and still sobbing, the doctor played his part and assumed full responsibility for the ambush, rejecting her accusations that I had instigated the whole thing. Comforted but still furious, she let me guide her downstairs for the ordered MRI then take her home.
The act of that lie killed a small part of me, even though to this day I know that it was entirely necessary. I had long since sworn to myself to be forever trustworthy for her, but I would gradually sacrifice more and more of my soul in such lies over the next three years, to protect her and her trust in me, and the most frightening, humiliating part of it all is just how easy it becomes with repetition. Eventually, careful and elaborate lies become second nature, forcing one to tread with ever more elevated caution, remembering always that such things remain a last resort at all times.
Recently, I broke down some of the fictions that Jacquelynn maintained throughout our time together, and how learning about them affected both this blog/book and me personally. I am no paragon of unstained integrity. I make no claim of perfection and sit here deeply ashamed of every deceitful act and word, no matter how minor it may have seemed at the time.
However, the deliberate construction and execution of a structured lie, designed strictly to mislead for the sole reason of protecting the liar’s interests, is to my mind a darker act. It is a frightful wound that I must heal on my own through forgiveness of self. Probably the most difficult person for me to forgive.
Please, whatever happens going forward in my life, please never require me to lie to my heart ever again. It’s among the deepest, rawest self-inflicted wounds I have. Five months and more after her passing and three full years after it all began with this one intricately constructed deception, it still bleeds and burns when I pick at it.
Let me live in truth and honesty going forward.