Stephen and I live apart.
As can be expected, almost everyone has something to say about it. Even people, who have nothing to do with us, raise their eyebrows and make a face. Some scoff at this arrangement and others just nod or shrug their shoulders because it is just beyond their comprehension that this arrangement is workable. Those that know us, worry that the separate lives we lead will take a toll on us.
It’s curious that if he were an astronaut, no one would think twice about his absence from home. It would be totally acceptable for him to be “away” for months. Since we are just ordinary people, it’s a bone of contention.
Truth be told, there aren’t any questions left that we have not, ourselves, asked of each other. There aren’t any alternatives that we have not analysed and scrutinised.
Truth be told, we don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Nevertheless, I do feel a need to touch on it. In the chance, that someone out there might benefit from knowing about our situation and to give hope to those who don’t or cannot live together yet!
At the outset, I should clarify that the distance between us is not of our own choice. The main and principal reason is Stephen’s mom.
To cut a long story short, in early 2006, she lapsed into a coma and almost died. Doctors told us she would not make it through the week and said we should prepare for the worst. Prior to this, MIL (mother-in-law) lived on her own and relied on her whims and fancies when it came to her pill prescription and nutrition. Having three heart blocks, diabetes and high blood pressure, she didn’t really understand the consequence of not eating healthy food nor of adhering to the medication she needed. When the inevitable happened, after an eating binge, it was no longer feasible for her to live alone. Stephen and his sister decided that she would be better cared for in a nursing home. That she is there is another long story, for another blog.
In any case, it is now 2009 and MIL is alive and doing rather well. Despite the fact that it has been an uphill battle with other interfering family members, that decision to put her there seems to have been the only reason for why she is still living today. Had she been allowed to go home, without a proper dietician to watch her food or a nurse to give her two insulin jabs a day, I sincerely doubt that she would have lived beyond a year, on her own. Whatever is said and done, it is the result that counts. She’s alive and no amount of condemnation from anybody can dispute that.
In this regard, the main and principal reason for us to be apart is my MIL. I write this with no malice at all.
I truly understand that Stephen needs to be near his mom. There is no other sibling around. All the other three are in the US. They are just too far away to be of any significant help for anything or anyone. If Stephen comes to KL, he’d have to shuttle back and forth. Besides, in any emergency, it would take him about 3 to 5 hours to get to her.
Stephen, on the other hand, understands me and of my commitments here. To be brutally frank, we had not anticipated that it would be more than 4 years of this. If he was eventually going to come to KL to retire, there wasn’t a real urgency for me to give up my job and move to Singapore. Of course, that’s all water under the bridge now.
In any case, the last 4 years have not been a total write-off. We’ve been commuting. I am there in Singapore, more than he comes to KL only because there is a need for me to visit with my MIL. If he came here more often, then she would have less of him and me. Since I’m not there, Stephen visits her frequently.
With all the modern technology, we don’t really feel the absence so badly. We “skype” everyday. For those moments, we are seated across each other, at our laptops, and we give each other undivided attention. Sometimes, I’ll have my dinner while he has his or I’m folding the clothes and we talk. I think there are married couples who don’t even talk the way we do. They go about their own ways and only share the same roof.
It’s not the best way for a marriage to be but neither is it the worst. We have many weekends together and every time we are together, it’s just glorious. We carry on from where we last left off and nothing seems untoward or out of place. Maybe it’s just us and our ability to make the most of our situation. Perhaps our personalities allow us to enjoy this kind of arrangement. I don’t say that there aren’t times when the absence can be unbearable. I don’t say, either, that there aren’t times when we wished we didn’t have to say goodbye so often. Yet, many other married people who have ‘normal’ married lives don’t seem to be as happy as we are. People who know Stephen will probably hear the same thing from him as those who know me here. We genuinely are all right with this. We know that it’s not going to be forever. Eventually, we will be together and that hope keeps us going.
There won’t be any regrets on his side if anything should happen to his mom. He is sacrificing his time with Jared and me in order to be as close to her as possible. Jared and I, in our own way also see it as a sacrifice or sorts. At the end of it all, we’ll be able to say we did what we believed was best and made the most of it.
This is the reason why I have loved this mini poster when I first saw it. I feel it totally encapsulates all that I want to say. Very often, I open the file to look at it and it reminds me of what LOVE should be. It also tells me that Stephen is capable of this kind of love. It tells me that it isn’t always easy to love because it’s complicated. It also tells me that when you do know of this kind of love, then your life has been worthwhile.