One of the ways I have adapted to Kate’s changes is to avoid things that might lead to negative emotions. That is not always easy. For example, I have no control over sudden loud noises like those we encounter in restaurants or any other public settings. One of the things over which I can have a degree of control is avoiding topics that cause her to be sad. I try not to mention mass shootings or other terrorist activities or natural disasters. She is unusually sensitive to them these days.
There is no way, however, that I can protect her from everything. Yesterday I had a routine appointment with my doctor. It had been more than six months since I had seen him. I knew that he had had open heart surgery since my last appointment and planned to ask him about it. As you might imagine, it was a big event in his life. He was ready to tell the whole story.
As he began, Kate was touched. She had tears in her eyes and whimpered audibly while he talked. As he neared the end, I said, “I suspect you came away with a very different perspective on life.” He said he did and began to tell us how he was looking at life now. As he did, Kate entered the conversation herself and agreed with his thoughts about taking advantage of every moment in a way he had never done before. She didn’t do or say anything that was bizarre, but she was moved in a more dramatic way than one would expect in the situation.
As we were driving home, she had another emotional experience. This one was more surprising to me. We went through a heavy rain when she started a conversation that I didn’t initially understand. It was about the danger of storms. She couldn’t find the word she wanted. We played a guessing game for a minute or two before I guessed the word “pets.” She was concerned about dogs and cats that might be caught in the rain. We were less than ten minutes from home, and she talked about the need for pet owners to see that their pets were inside at times like this. Her concern went beyond what I would call normal. She was quite worried about them. When we walked into our house, she said, “Let’s check on the dogs.” I explained that we lost our dogs six years ago. Immediately, I was worried about causing an even greater emotion, but she just said, “Oh.”
Another minor incident happened when I tried to help her with something she wanted to do it herself. I don’t even remember what it was, but she snapped at me. I said, “I’m sorry. I did it again. I was trying to be helpful but went too far.” Then she apologized to me and was very sad. She started to cry. I gave her a hug and reassured her that she hadn’t done anything wrong.
She is very sensitive right now, and I hate for her to feel sad or guilty. Fortunately, these emotions have been short-lived.