Having had a break from the story to write about current issues, I now resume where I left off about ten days ago.......
The pneumonia had left Greg extremely weak and he was still not able to get out of bed or walk for a couple of weeks afterwards. In any case, when he came off the oxygen and was back on a normal ward, he was still bound to his bed by lines (infusing insulin for his diabetes, saline and antibiotics) as well as a catheter. I visited daily staying at least an hour with him, sometimes longer. I would bring him newspapers to read, not that he seemed to want them, or a change of clothes, some chewing gum (as he obviously was not allowed to smoke) and a nicotine-replacement inhaler. We would have brief conversations, but he seemed to be in another world. Often he would just lie back, close his eyes and drift off to sleep. I would go away for a while, have a coffee in the hospital restaurant and then return for another half-hour or so with him, just watching him. After he had been in hospital for about two weeks, I got a phone call one day from one of the nurses to say Greg was asking why I had not been in for several weeks!! He was clearly not registering my visits at all. This was very distressing for me. I did not know whether he was losing his mind or whether it was the alcohol withdrawal causing him to be like this. I tried to speak to the doctors about it, but they were very difficult to pin down. Usually, when a doctor was sent for to talk to me, a young girl would arrive, fresh out of university and not much older than Kay. She was friendly enough, but just did not have the information to pass on to me. It was totally frustrating.
As the days went on Greg's mind seemed to be in utter turmoil. He was talking complete gobbledegook. He explained to me one day that he had been queueing at the check-in desk at Sydney airport, when he was suddenly struck down by meningitis and airlifted to the hospital in London. (Complete fabrication - he has never been to Australia in his life and he had pneumonia not meningitis.) He even got the name of our local hospital wrong. It is a hospital in a London suburb not four miles away from us, but he said he had never been to that part of London before, although he had heard of it. (The truth is he had been to that area countless times before). He even told the medical staff he had just come back from trekking in the Himalayas. (They were not sure whether to believe him, as that story might be feasible, but I was able to assure them he had not been to Asia - ever! And, as for mountain-climbing, his legs wouldn't even take him up and down our normal stairs at home!) There were countless more instances where he was making things up and I expressed my deep concerns to the staff. The doctors now began to consider that Greg might have something called Korsakoff's Syndrome - an irreversible alcohol-related dementia. One of the main symptoms is that the patient confabulates stories to make up for gaps in their memory. This syndrome certainly seemed to account for the strange stories Greg was coming out with and indeed with the strange things he had been saying or doing in the weeks before he went into hospital.
Meanwhile, Kay and I were beginning to relax at home. It was so nice to have peace and quiet. It was true I was on a bit of a treadmill. Each day, I visited Greg for an hour or two, so that took a whole morning or afternoon out of each day , taking into account the driving there and back, getting parked in a nearby street etc. When I was not at hospital, I had to find time to walk Snoopy, get the house tidied up, as well as all the usual household chores and ferrying Kay to her social life in the evenings. So I was busy all the time, but the peace and quiet more than made up for it. I did not have to worry that Greg was loose in the house - drunk, smoking, maybe absent-mindedly putting down a cigarette. We have that many cigarette burn-holes in our carpets, sofas, tablecloths. I was always afraid he would burn the house down particularly if we were fast asleep. So I was free from that worry. Kay was able to get on with her homework peacefully. All in all we were having a good time. I even decided to press on and do a few of the jobs that had been waiting to be done. Ones that Greg had promised to do but never even started, because the alcohol preoccupied him. One was to call in an electrician and fix a few electrical problems in the house. I was beginning to feel a new self-confidence in existing (and more to the point coping) without Greg. I was able to make decisions, without having to wait for Greg to agree to them, which in some cases could be never, as he is a great procrastinator.
About two weeks after Greg had first been admitted into hospital, I was asked by the ward clerk if I would be prepared to accept him home, when it got to the stage when he might be discharged from hospital. I thought this meant I was being given a choice. Given at that point that Greg could not independently move an inch from his bed, was showing signs of dementia and was slightly incontinent, I said it was a difficult choice: I did not want to stop him coming back to what was his home. But I did not want him returning home, if he were to continue getting drunk, smoking, immobile AND suffering from dementia. That was a recipe for disaster and certainly for house-fires. I would worry for our safety. On the other hand, he had been my husband for 32 years and I could not just write him off. I could not bear the idea of him going into a nursing home or alcoholic hostel or wherever they might put him. I could not bear the thought of banning him from his own home. He is still only 59 and not old enough to be written off.
On the other hand, Kay and I were enjoying the peace and quiet at home, the relaxed atmosphere without the worry of being burnt alive or shouted at. We were enjoying girlie chats and watching TV together, even having the occasional glass of wine. Relaxing. No living nightmares.
On the other hand.....
On the other hand.....
Help! I was running out of hands!!
I really did not know what was best for all of us. Whatever decision I made was far from ideal for one reason or another. I felt unhappy every time I thought I had made up my mind, whichever option I chose, but on balance, when I had weighed everything up, chewed it over a zillion times, slept on it and reconsidered, I chose NOT to have him home.