When I started this blog, I wanted to fill it full of stories of people who overcame chump heartbreak and went on to gain better lives. So, I asked the mightiest person I knew — my Aunt Joy — to share her story. She gave us The Walls In Your House Will Sing, her inspiring tale of divorce, reinvention, and remarriage.
Over the years it’s thrilled me to see “my walls sing!” reports from CN. (My Aunt Joy is the original badass. When I went through my D-days, she drove down from upstate New York to pack my cheater’s shit in boxes and hauled them to the garage. God bless her.)
If you ever read her story, you’ll know that nearly 40 years ago, she found love and married her high school sweetheart, Matt, who was a fellow chump. (His ex-wife ran away with their priest. My grandmother suggested that perhaps my aunt could offer some words of support. The rest is history, as they say.)
My uncle Matt was a wonderful man. A loving father and husband, a spoiler of dogs, a model railroad enthusiast, a generous host, a quick and wry wit. I’m using the past tense so you might guess where I’m going with this — he has dementia. The Matt we all knew, but still love, has been fading away for about nine years. For seven of those years, and throughout a pandemic, my aunt was his sole caregiver.
Over a year ago, as she approached 80, she had to make the hard decision to put him in a care home. I cannot imagine the burdens of caregiving someone with dementia. It’s like a slow-rolling death. The man she’s loved is gone. A few years ago she told me what she missed the most was conversations. There was no one to share life’s little intimacies with. It got to a point where Matt couldn’t follow what you said. And then it got to a point where he couldn’t talk at all. Or recognize anyone.
I’ve been thinking about my aunt and Matt this week, for a couple reasons. First, Matt has taken a turn for the worse. Let’s just put it this way — the bodily functions are failing. And he’s agitated and lashing out and there’s a long wait for skilled nursing care. All my aunt can do is cry and continue to show up. And do hard thing after hard thing after hard thing. After a long road of doing hard things.
Which brings me to my second point — she shows up.
Her devotion is unquestioned. I’m sure over the years she’s faulted herself and not felt adequate to the task. But there is no part of her that would not do this. It’s how she is wired. She loves with her whole goddamn heart.
So fuck Dan Savage and “transactional” love. For many years, my aunt had reciprocal, devoted love from Matt. And then there came a day when the calculus changed. Where she was not going to get a return on her investment. She would have to give without getting, because the person she loved was vulnerable and failing.
She hasn’t run off with a priest. She hasn’t run off, period. She shows up and does the hard things. Because that’s who she is. Just like you folks in Chump Nation. Sane parenting alone. Showing up for disabled kids and aging parents. Supporting the newly chumped. Being solid friends. Loving with your whole goddamn hearts.
So your Friday Challenge is to send my Aunt Joy some words of support. And let her know how your walls sing. She could use some cheering up about now, and I know just the right people for the job.