Yes, she's strange and different...but not THAT different.

12 October 2007

Holding Hands

I was in the mall last week when I saw an older (appeared to be in their 80s) couple doing something that I thought was very sweet: holding hands as they walked through the mall. That’s something that I rarely see old folks do in public. Later, however, as the same couple was seated near me in a restaurant in the mall, I realized that the man’s mental faculties were severely impaired, and he was suffering from some form of dementia. It was obvious that the two of them had been together for a long time because they were much too intimate for just nurse and patient, but it was also obvious that the woman was basically now acting as his caretaker. His whole demeanor was very child-like, and she treated him that way - as a child. Which I then assumed was why she was holding his hand since that is exactly what I do with my daughter when we are out in a public place. My initial point of view, the one that saw their hand-holding as a sweet sign of their love, had now changed to one that saw the hand-holding as a sign of necessity for protection.

Assuming from their age and their demeanor that they were married, I even wept a little then, as I thought of what life must be like for that woman. The man that she had probably married, likely a long time ago, no longer existed. In his place was this childlike person who needed to be constantly looked after, this burden that took her time and her strength. What must her life be like now? Was this how she foresaw her future with the man she loved? And of course, it then immediately became obvious to me that many spouses of us transgendered folks have to deal with this type of drastic change in their lives much before the onset of any form of dementia. The person that our spouse married quite often becomes a quite different person later in our life together. And in a lot of cases the union cannot tolerate that change. I left the restaurant feeling pretty down that day, although it had been a very nice day until that couple had come in. I had had way too many negative thoughts to deal with, and I almost resented that older couple for making me think them.

After I had a chance to process things, though, I realized that I should not have felt as badly as I did. There was obviously a lot of love between those two older people, and while I realize that love rarely really does conquer all, it certainly can make much of the unbearable, bearable. Yes, I hold my child’s hand to protect her and to keep her from wandering off, but I also hold her hand because it gives me pleasure to do so. I don’t resent doing it at all, even though it is often a necessity in a crowded mall. For the woman I saw, just holding hands with the man she loves might be enough to compensate her for HAVING to hold his hand. He may not be the man she married, but something in him has obviously fought to stay alive and maybe she sees that, too. And while I doubt that she foresaw her life to be the one she is currently living, I also realized that very few of us ever see the life we are living as the one we would have. Reality has a tendency to blind-side most of us.

Finally, I realized that many of us transgendered folks have been somewhat self-pitying in our perception of the state of the world. We sometimes have a tendency to concentrate on the broken marriages, the lost jobs, the other bad things that happen because we are transgendered, and to overlook the relationships that last or the other completely normal things that continue to just happen despite the fact that we are transgendered. Reality for most folks also includes a healthy dose of good stuff. And sometimes the good stuff is enough to carry us through a lot of bad stuff. I think I saw evidence of that last week in the mall.

(P.S. I posted this and then as I re-read it, I realized that some of the very best things in my life are my friends. That includes the friends I have made here, and I wanted to thank you all for that.)

  • On 10/12/2007 12:25 PM, Blogger cathouse teri said…

    Well I can't speak for everyone, but I can tell you that it's my pleasure to call you my friend.

    Have you seen the movie, "The Notebook?" Just about killed me.
    I could never watch that movie twice.

    I'll tell you what's sadder than seeing what you saw, seeing the places where people put their "loved ones" when they begin to suffer these debilitating physicalities. I get very upset when I visit convalescent homes and wonder, "where are the families of these people??"

    Little sidenote: My mother and father hold hands when they go out. They are 70 and 72. And it's possible that these folks always did, too. And she's hanging on to that loveliness, along with sharing it with him.

    xoxoxoxo to you, Purrty Jammies!

  • On 10/12/2007 1:14 PM, Anonymous Leslie said…

    My grandfather has Alzheimer's, and while it has been devastating to my grandmother to watch her husband slip away, I know she cherishes the time she has with him. Though things have changed, he remains the man she loves.

    That disease has changed my grandparents lives in ways they never could have predicted. But, I don't think my grandmother would have lived her life any differently.

  • On 10/12/2007 2:45 PM, Blogger Nancy said…

    I have seen many older people holding hands and have always wished that would be me when I was elderly. I think I need to find a mate before I can accomplish that.

    You are blessed Jami, I think it is awesome that you, your spouse and children are together and having a normal (maybe a bit different, but not THAT different *wink*) life.


  • On 10/12/2007 3:08 PM, Blogger Howard said…

    First, who would have thought that something in a mall would make anyone think. :)

    Second, this was a beautiful thought process. It really shows that you do think on many levels which makes you extremely rare in the world.

  • On 10/12/2007 4:09 PM, Blogger soccer mom in denial said…

    What a lovely piece. Really. Thanks for sharing all that went on in your head that day....

    We are friends with a couple in which one of them completed his transition. His wife often jokes that she wasn't in love with the breasts, but the person behind the breasts.

  • On 10/13/2007 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Very nice piece.
    I once sat and held Spaz's hand for an hour. If I would have let go she would have killed me.

  • On 10/14/2007 1:48 PM, Blogger Kel said…

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I really enjoy it. Just thought I'd mention that.

    I really hope those old people held hands all their lives because, well, that's just how I'd like to think of them.

  • On 10/14/2007 2:42 PM, Blogger Sher said…

    When I was watching the transgendered people and their families on Oprah the other day (when I was actually between work appointments for an hour) I was absolutely taken with how that love works. I asked myself a question I had no business asking because I can't possibly wrap my mind around it... would I stay if Mr. Man would have gone through this.

    I can't say one way or the other for sure but I do know that it's clear to me that a transgendered person who goes through all you must and still finds the same partner across the breakfast table from you... wow. The love the two of you share must certainly be among the most pure and most powerful.

    I envy that.

  • On 10/14/2007 5:09 PM, Blogger Jen of A2eatwrite said…

    Lovely writing, Jami.

    My FIL is dealing with this with my MIL. And until my MIL became pretty much completely non-communicative, he just held on to every second they had together. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to. She has Alzheimer's. He still spends several hours a day with her, although she had to be moved to a care facility because she was getting physically difficult for him to handle, and they didn't want to move in with any of us who offered to take care of them.
    But they've always been independent, and I think he still feels he is, in this way.

  • On 10/14/2007 6:08 PM, Blogger konagod said…

    You sure do a lot of thinking.

    Nice post. And with each passing day I think more and more about things... my relationship and what it might be like in 30 years, assuming we're not dead from alcohol poisoning. :lol:

    And yes, I am so happy I got into blogging and made some of what I consider to be the best friends I could ask for. And you're one of them.

  • On 10/15/2007 6:08 AM, Blogger UMLawGirl said…

    You're welcome. Thanks right back at ya.

    It is true that we transgender folk undergo an outside change that is difficult -- often impossible for some people -- to deal with. But, as hard as that is, I think watching your life-partner lose her (or his) mental faculties would be even worse. I feel sorry for that woman, but not because of the care she's now relegated to, but because of the loss of reciprocity in her love, caring and attention. She must know that he still loves her and, at some level, appreciates all she is doing for him. I hope so, for her sake.

    Hugs to you, my dear friend.

  • On 10/15/2007 2:05 PM, Blogger nexy said…

    this was touching. thanks for sharing your thoughts - they often result in me thinking, which is always a good thing :)

  • On 10/17/2007 4:40 PM, Blogger Jenn in Holland said…

    This is really an incredible piece Jami, and reading it has caused tears of my own to fall. I am completely moved by the images you presented and the thought process you shared here. I find your insight to be, well, inspirational. Reality does indeed include a healthy dose of the good stuff. It's great to see that, in spite of the fact that the evidence to the contrary often seems to be overwhelming.
    I am so proud to be your friend.


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