We met at Batan Waru last night for dinner. I’d been out of Bali and this was our first date in nearly three weeks. Bob looked so handsome sporting my favorite Italian shirt I’d bought for him many years ago. He’d recently had a hair and beard trim and looked fifteen years younger.
Bob lit up when he saw me and we sat down for dinner after some confusion as to where he wanted to sit. For about ten minutes we seemed to have a meaningful conversation and then the words stopped making sense, finally derailing into sound crunches. I pretended I understood and made generic comments as though we were having a real conversation like we used to.
I wonder if my heart will ever stop breaking every time I see him in this state. You would think after twelve years I’d be immune to it, but I’m not. It still shakes me to the core to see this once gallant man reduced to shuffling, his words melting into unintelligible sounds, food dripping off his spoon and into his lap where he refuses to keep the napkin that I carefully tuck there to protect his clothing.
Before our dinner arrived, Bob needed the bathroom so I accompanied him since he’d started out in the wrong direction. He emerged with unzipped and unbuttoned pants and his belt hanging open. I got him straightened out with the staff and diners watching. The staff at least understands since we’ve frequented this cafe since it’s opening over a decade ago.
All in all we had a very nice time and he seemed happy, but when I left, “Bob I still have some work to do tonight,” he became anxious. By the time he and Ketut drove up to his cottage he refused to go in the house. He became obsessed wanting to find me and paced up and down the street.
Many Balinese were out on the street, having just buried someone who’d died in the village. He roamed in desperation with Ketut unable to persuade him to come into the house. "I have to find Susan. She was just here. Where is she?" he implored.
Finally he took off his jeans and flung them over his shoulder walking among the residents in his Depends. At least they too understand and often joke with him or call out, ”Hello Bob!” when he passes.
In the pacing he lost his glasses and once in the house he obsessed about me until 2:30 am when he finally agreed to go to bed. I fear that my presence upsets him rather than soothes him and that makes me feel sad.
When I was away Bob didn’t ask much about me, but now I’m back reminding him on some subtle level of what we had. Maybe there’s a cell memory of ‘us’ that permeates his body if not his mind.
I wonder, “Do other caregivers of soul mates have this same problem? That when they leave their loved one, the person becomes anxious? And if that’s the case, what can I do to alleviate these feelings, to make him feel good from our meetings?”