I’m far from the most charming guy to others, with one important exception. I openly speak what I think and feel, plus I make up my own mind entirely. I have problems with every party, every ideology, every interest group and especially every think tank. I can rub anyone the wrong way, with one important exception.
I’ve always done what I thought best as a caregiver, not what convention or authorities dictated. I know that early on I raised eyebrows on Cindy’s side of the family, and even a few on mine, with our long distance hikes during Cindy’s “early retirement.” Our families eventually accepted my lack of convention, could see the positive results. Yet my unconventional approach for Cindy certainly rubbed some people the wrong way.
Like the person who unfriended me on Facebook with the admonishment I was trying to walk Cindy to death. Or the person we met on the ADT journey who demanded I get an advocate for Cindy, presumably before I destroyed her with all our walking. Or the friend who thought our pursuit of the Triple Crown was for my sake, not Cindy’s. Those pale as a confrontation compared with the anonymous person that left a comment on my blog during our PCT hike that I was a f***ing narcissist that should do Cindy a favor and kill myself (that comment never got approved).
I understand why some folks might be perturbed with me sharing the personal details of our final journey. As a small town boy I’m used to people knowing all the details of my life, but most people in our increasingly urban and suburban society are no longer small town boys. Mere acquaintances and strangers also would not know how passionately both of us believe in living our lives to benefit others. Sharing our final journey is the obvious way to do that now.
In fairness to those who favor convention, I undeniably made mistakes, not with the long distance hiking or sharing of our journey, but in other ways. Yet I had one saving grace no matter what mistakes I made. To Cindy I AM the most charming guy in the world. There is no accounting for tastes but, regardless, my “charm” saved me from a few mistakes that might have lessened Cindy’s quality of life.
My charm, if I may continue to call it that, is reminiscent of Chip Gaines on the HGTV show “Fixer Upper,” always embarrassing his wife on camera (though I’ve yet to eat a cockroach), or the cartoon boy Calvin, who makes headless snowmen (our kids still mention the snow slugs we made). Hey! It works! Though, as our children have pointed out to their Mom: “Don’t look at us, you married him!”
While I practice guitar I often have a slideshow of Cindy’s life up on the television monitor. I’ll be focused on my technique when I hear Cindy chuckle. Most of the time when this happens I glance up to see a slide of me being obnoxious as the cause for her chuckle, my brand of charm at work.
Most of my caregiver days are not as tough or tragic as some folks think it must be. When I could easily put Cindy in a good mood, that easily kept my spirits up, which further helped me keep Cindy in a good mood, which further kept my spirits up. You get the picture, one big positive feedback loop.
Unfortunately, now my charm requires increasing effort. Gone are the days when all I needed to do was flash my dimples at Cindy. Sometimes I strive just to get her to break through a haze and recognize me. That’s not the worst part.
Recently I made a goofy face for Cindy and asked if she thought I was cute. Her response was partly her usual “oh you’re impossible” smile, but a smile attempting to break through sudden tears. This was a new twist to another recent development, in response to a different kind of “charm.”
I figure the best thing you can do for people, particularly in their lowest moments, is let them know they are loved. So that’s what I do with Cindy, quite often. I tell her I love her. I tell her how beautiful she is. I tell her what a great couple we are. Yet a few times now expressing my love in various ways has caused her tears.
I am not sure what to make of that. I certainly do not want to cause Cindy anguish. Maybe she is just being her usual sappy self in new ways, reacting to my tenderness like she does to a romantic comedy. Or maybe she anticipates she is about to lose something precious. Knowing who she is, maybe she is feeling bad for me instead of her.
These are unanswerable questions, at least Cindy is not able to answer them directly. As her spouse and caregiver I have to guess, use instinct, at this point. For once I will follow convention by continuing to “charm” Cindy with love, even if it appears to no longer work. For when is the charm of love, whether goofy or tender, not the right instinct?